Provides recommendations for designing and implementing programs that target hard-to-employ populations.

 “Subsidized employment programs typically are designed to accomplish one or both of two primary goals: to give people immediate access to employment and earnings, and to increase people’s work experience, skills, and connections in order to improve their employability after the subsidized job ends” (p.2).  Since “subsidized jobs programs are nearly always small compared to the potential pool of workers who could benefit… policymakers should think carefully about the goals of a subsidized employment program, the populations who are most likely to benefit from participating, and how to align program design with these goals and populations.

This brief is informed by the literature on subsidized employment and makes recommendations on how subsidized employment programs can be targeted at improving the long-term employability of adults and youth with severe barriers to employment and on the implications for program design” (p.1-2).

Major Findings & Recommendations

“In order to develop a fair wage subsidy structure and to engage potential employers with incentives to hire people with unstable work histories, it is essential to identity a target population and its serious barriers to employment as early as possible so program organizers can be prepared to address specific needs and challenges that may be related to an individual participant. When designing a program with the purpose of targeting hard-to-employ populations, lessons taken from various states’ and counties’ design and implementation procedures suggest these key steps: 1. Understand the difference between outcomes and impacts; outcomes measure how participants are faring, but impacts measure the difference that the program has made. When working with more disadvantaged workers, there may be less favorable outcomes, but stronger impacts on the workers’ overall success. Interim impacts may be assessed by looking at changes in participants’ life skills and family well-being along with changes in earnings and employment. Determine the strength of impacts on workers’ success after participating in the program. 2. Assess participants to identify their barriers to employment, and build appropriate wraparound services into the program from the beginning. Work closely with employers to help program participants transition into a permanent unsubsidized job. This may include multi-stage programs where workers first demonstrate their life skills and abilities before they are placed in a subsidized job or focusing on job development by placing workers with employers that understand their particular circumstances. 3. Increase partnerships with private-sector businesses to promote the hiring and retention of subsidized workers to enhance employment gains over a long-term period. Some studies suggest that individuals placed in subsidized positions at for-profit firms have been more likely to be hired after subsidies ended than those placed with government or non-profit entities. Employers that show their commitment by paying workers directly (rather than through an intermediary) or paying a portion of the salary also appear to be more likely to retain workers after subsidy periods end” (p.6). (Abstractor: Author)