Project Overview - Winning New Jobs:
A Promising Job Search Program
for Unemployed Workers

Under the sponsorship of the California Wellness Foundation, the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) has teamed with the Michigan Prevention Research Center (MPRC) to launch the Winning New Jobs project in three communities in California. In Winning New Jobs, MDRC and MPRC will implement a highly acclaimed job search program for 6,500 Californians who are displaced or recently unemployed. This five-year project utilizes the JOBS intervention program, a program developed over the past ten years by MPRC, to help workers find reemployment and inoculate themselves against the adverse mental and physical health effects of unemployment. In the three communities (yet to be selected), an existing community organization will receive funds, staff training, and technical assistance to implement the model and maintain this job search program. Adoption and implementation of this job search program in each community will be carefully documented to provide concrete implementation lessons for adaptation in other locations. In addition, as part of the project, an independent evaluation of program effectiveness will be conducted.

Social and Policy Context

During the past decade-and-a-half, millions of American workers have lost stable, well-paying jobs due to structural economic changes caused by major advances in production technology, rapidly increasing international competition, and shifting national priorities. California has been particularly vulnerable to recent economic shifts. California absorbed nearly 70 percent of the national base closure personnel reductions in recent defense cutbacks. Base closures and job losses in defense-related industries, along with upheavals in the Silicon Valley computer industry, have pushed hundreds of thousands of workers into the ranks of the unemployed. Furthermore, the effects of these changes are expected to persist for the next several years.

The California Wellness Foundation identified job loss and unemployment as a major issue confronting Californians and affecting their health. The loss of employment can lead to a chain of consequences that affect the health and well-being of workers and their families. Some unemployed workers lose financial stability and resources, social support and status.

These workers often remain unemployed for long periods, and when they finally become reemployed, their new jobs frequently pay less than those they lost. As a result, they may suffer from high levels of anxiety and depression, become more at risk of practicing adverse health behaviors such as alcohol and tobacco consumption, and thus, increase their risk of disease and mortality.

Job search skills become even more important as job change becomes more frequent. Even more so than in the past, today's workers in California and elsewhere cannot expect to have a single career with a single company, but instead will experience multiple career changes in which job transitions occur frequently. Job search skills will need to become part of a repertoire of career transition skills that all workers possess. The new workers, whether skilled in management, in technical areas, or at a craft, will need to be vigilant about opportunities in anticipation of future organizational change. They will also need a ready set of skills for the search process itself.

The JOBS Intervention Model

The JOBS intervention model has the dual goals of promoting reemployment in high- quality jobs and preventing poor mental health among the unemployed. The intervention itself consists of five intensive and active half-day workshops held over a 1-2 week period that focus on identifying effective job-search strategies, improving participant job-search skills, and increasing the self-esteem, confidence, and motivation of the participants in their job search.

There are five essential components to the program model:

  1. Job-Search Skill Training. Participants are invited to acquire and rehearse job-search skills in a safe and supportive environment.
  2. Active Teaching/Learning Methods. Trainers use non-didactic and active learning methods to engage participants in job-search training. This method uses the knowledge and skills of the participants themselves, elicited through small and large group discussions, brainstorming, and other activities.
  3. Skilled and Sensitive Facilitators. Paired workshop trainers or facilitators are carefully chosen and rigorously trained to build trust and reduce the social distance among participants and the facilitators.
  4. Supportive Learning Environment. In the workshops, facilitators model and reinforce supportive behavior and work to create a positive learning environment through exercises that provide opportunities for the participants to be supportive of each other.
  5. Inoculation Against Setbacks. Program participants are provided a problem-solving process to help them cope with stress related to unemployment and the job search process and the setbacks that they may encounter. Part of the group problem-solving process involves identifying or anticipating possible barriers to success and advance preparation of solutions to overcome them.

The JOBS intervention program has shown substantial promise in other states and countries in assisting displaced and recently unemployed workers find employment while providing cost savings. A comprehensive evaluation found that JOBS intervention program participants were more likely to find better paying jobs, have more stable employment, and obtain employment more quickly than their peers in the comparison group. The program paid for itself with decreased Unemployment Insurance payments and increased taxes paid by participants who found work. In addition, positive results persisted over at least two years, as those who participated in the program experienced consistently higher monthly earnings, higher levels of employment and fewer episodes of subsequent employer and job change. Even among those who had difficulty finding or sustaining jobs, participants reported fewer bouts of depression, more sustained job seeking activity and higher levels of self-esteem.

Winning New Jobs Program

In Winning New Jobs, MDRC and MPRC will select three sites in this five-year demonstration and evaluation project. Site selection and development activities will begin early in the Spring of 1996, with the development and release of a request for qualifications (RFQ). This RFQ will be geographically targeted to areas affected by the recession and that also have a large pool of potential participants to serve. Organizations will be judged on their ability to launch the job search intervention in fairly compressed time period (the program should be operational by the beginning of 1997), recruit and serve over 500 clients per year, and maintain the program over the four year intake period from 1997-2000.

The California Wellness Foundation will provide grants to support sites participation in the Winning New Jobs project including the development and maintenance of a JOBS intervention program in their community. MDRC and MPRC will work with these communities over the first year (1996) to develop and train staff members (in Michigan and in California) on the jobs Intervention program and provide technical assistance and program oversight over the next four years (1997-2000) to ensure that the integrity of the program is maintained.

Role of MDRC and MPRC

MDRC and MPRC will work collaboratively to replicate the JOBS intervention, targeting areas affected by the California economic recession and particularly people formerly employed in low wage jobs who, research shows, will benefit the most from these job search services. MPRC's main responsibilities would be provision of the program intervention, data collection instruments, and training. MDRC would be primarily responsible for recruiting and selecting the three sites, coordinating the delivery of the program and training, monitoring sites' activities, and collecting information for the evaluation. Both organizations would work with the California Wellness Foundation's evaluator on the evaluation design and on showcasing the programs.

Funding and Sponsorship

The Winning New Jobs project is fully supported by the California Wellness Foundation and is part of their Work and Health Initiative. The California Wellness Foundation, an independent private grantmaking foundation, supports the improvement of the health of Californians through proactive development, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of health promotion and disease prevention programs, and through development of strategies and public policies that enable individuals and communities to generate and adopt a wellness lifestyle. Their Work and Health Initiative is a comprehensive, five year, $20 million project whose mission is to understand the rapidly changing nature of work and its effects on the health of Californians, and to improve health through improving conditions of work, access to employment and the caliber of health insurance available to the state's workforce.

Training and Facilitation

The MPRC facilitation team will work closely with the three California sites and MDRC to train facilitators in the WNJ model. Representatives from the Californian sites will come to Michigan for a two-week, Active Teaching-Active Learning workshop, as well as representatives from Michigan will be traveling to California to support the sites in their ongoing training. To learn more about the WNJ workshop from the perspective of the facilitators, please see: "Tales from the Front".

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