Findings from In-Depth Interviews with Participants in Subsidized Employment Programs

By Barbara Fink

Subsidized employment and transitional jobs programs seek to increase employment and earnings among individuals who have not been able to find jobs on their own. This report provides a detailed examination from the participant perspective of how subsidized jobs programs help participants succeed and what kind of barriers may have hindered their transition to stable employment.

Two federally funded multisite projects — the Department of Labor’s Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration (ETJD) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Subsidized and Transitional Employment Demonstration (STED) — tested various subsidized employment models. These programs aim to increase the long-term employment of a variety of disadvantaged populations, including welfare recipients, people returning to the community from prison, and low-income parents who do not have custody of their children (“noncustodial” parents, usually fathers) and who owe child support. The projects tested programs that enhanced the subsidized job model with case management and other support services, job-readiness training, and job search assistance.

Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with ETJD and STED participants from 11 programs to explore their experiences in these subsidized jobs programs and specifically to explore how subsidized employment helps participants secure unsubsidized employment. Individual participants were interviewed up to three times over several months to capture their views and attitudes as they moved through these programs.

Subsidized jobs are intended to make participants more attractive to employers and improve their employment outcomes. Participants did gain job search skills, and they were optimistic when they started subsidized jobs and got back into the routine of working. There were successes. Some participants found jobs through the program that they believed they would not have found on their own. The majority of participants, however, could not turn their subsidized work experiences into unsubsidized jobs. And those who did become employed tended to be working in low-wage jobs without benefits. The changes in participants’ lives fell short of the transformations they hoped for at the start.

Fink, Barbara. 2018. Findings from In-Depth Interviews with Participants in Subsidized Employment Programs. New York: MDRC.