Click on a topic below to find answers to frequently asked questions about the topic, or scroll to read all frequently asked questions and answers. You can also download this FAQ document here.
What are Transitional Jobs?
Transitional Jobs combine wage-paid work, job skills training, and supportive services to help individuals facing barriers to employment succeed in the workforce.
Why pay wages for Transitional Jobs?
Although they are time-limited, Transitional Jobs are real jobs with real pay. Paying real wages, equal to state or federal minimum wage for hours worked is a core component of the TJ strategy. Paying wages for transitional employment holds many benefits for workers, including providing a current employer reference and work history, ensuring access to the Earned Income Tax Credit, and reinforcing work-readiness lessons experientially in the context of a real job. Most importantly, paying wages offers much-needed earned income to support vulnerable individuals and their families.
What are the goals of Transitional Jobs?
Transitional Jobs have a variety of goals that are aimed at benefiting individuals, families, and communities. A central goal of Transitional Jobs is to help TJ participants address their barriers to employment and prepare for successful work in the unsubsidized labor market by experientially learning, modeling, and practicing workplace behaviors and building a work history with job references. Transitional Jobs also aim to stabilize individuals and their families with immediate earned income and access to incentives such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Additional goals of Transitional Jobs are to reduce recidivism and its associated public costs, stimulate local economies through wages paid to TJ participants, and improve the economic health of TJ participants’ employers.
What are the real impacts and outcomes of Transitional Jobs?
Evaluations of Transitional Jobs programs show that the strategy has many demonstrable effects, such as:
- The benefits of these programs can far outweigh the costs. A recent evaluation of a reentry-focused TJ program found that every $1 invested in the program yielded up to almost $4 in returned benefits to the community and taxpayer [i].
- Transitional Jobs programs get people working who would not otherwise be employed. Transitional Jobs programs are targeted at individuals who, if it was not for the strategy, would not be working. Transitional Jobs programs keep individuals employed and earning a paycheck to meet their basic needs even in very weak labor markets.
- Transitional Jobs programs can increase federal and state revenues. A program that placed over 27,000 individuals in TJ over a six month period generated nearly $13.6 million in federal income, Medicare, and Social Security taxes and over $2.7 million in state income tax [ii].
- Transitional Jobs programs can reduce recidivism. Transitional Jobs programs contribute to lowering recidivism and re-arrest and decrease reliance on public benefits. In a recent study, Transitional Jobs programs contributed to decreasing recidivism up to 50 percent on several measures, such as rearrest and reincarceration for a new crime [iii].
- Transitional Jobs programs can contribute to the success of children. These programs positively impact the lives of children as evidenced by better long-term educational outcomes [iv]. These programs support parental engagement by noncustodial parents and the earned income generated through these programs positively benefits children and families.
- Transitional Jobs programs can positively contribute to the economic health of communities. The wages paid to workers are immediately spent in local communities by individuals who must provide for their basic needs. This in turn increases local demand for goods and services. For a Transitional Jobs program in select Chicago neighborhoods that placed over 1,500 people in transitional jobs over four months, demand for goods and services increased by over $5 million because of the Transitional Jobs program [v].
- Transitional Jobs programs positively contribute to the economic health of employers. Transitional Jobs programs have shown to positively benefit private participating employers by lowering the cost of hiring new employees, increasing business productivity, financial well-being, and customer satisfaction [vi].
- Transitional Jobs programs can contribute to the receipt of employment-based tax credits, Unemployment Insurance, and Social Security. Because wage-paid, real work is at the core of the Transitional Jobs strategy, workers earn quarters toward wage-based tax incentives such as the Earned Income Tax Credit proven to lift individuals and families out of poverty. In addition, Transitional Jobs workers pay into social insurance programs and become eligible to receive Unemployment Insurance and Social Security.
- Transitional Jobs programs can promote pro-social behavior and orient job seekers around work. There is evidence that Transitional Jobs help workers make positive changes in their choices and behavior, as demonstrated by reductions in recidivism among TJ participants who have recently been released from incarceration [vii].
What do Transitional Jobs programs cost?
A large portion—roughly half– of the cost of Transitional Jobs programs comes in the form of wages to workers which are immediately spent in local communities to meet the basic needs of individuals and families. The financial benefits of Transitional Jobs programs can far outweigh the costs. Transitional Jobs programs have been shown to yield almost $4 in savings from averted criminal justice costs and the benefit of transitional labor for every $1 in program costs [viii]. The cost to implement Transitional Jobs programs vary depending upon the size and scope of your program, geography and program structure. We encourage downloading the NTJN’s budget projection tool to help make informed decisions about the cost of TJ programs.
Do Transitional Jobs programs duplicate the services provided by existing systems?
Transitional Jobs programs developed at the grass-roots level out of a response to the employment needs of individuals facing barriers to employment that had gone unmet by existing systems and strategies. Transitional Jobs seek to include best practices from employment and human services programs but the strategy is unique in blending wage-paid, real work opportunities with these traditional components. The National Transitional Jobs Network’s intention is that Transitional Jobs programs are one of the recognized strategies within all relevant public systems and are available to every individual facing employment barriers.
How are Transitional Jobs different from “make-work” jobs?
Transitional Jobs programs utilize real work opportunities in the private, public and non-profit sectors and benefit employers and communities. Transitional Jobs programs support communities through the repair and maintenance of public buildings, streets, and abandoned and foreclosed properties. Transitional Jobs are part of the engine of job creation through enterprises that create goods and services for the marketplace such as organic produce and prepared foods; restaurants and public food kitchens; weatherization and home improvement; clothing and retail stores and many more. Transitional Jobs programs place participants in child care centers, churches, schools, salons, property management and landscaping companies, for-profit and nonprofit retail stores, fast food, and restaurants to name a few. Transitional Jobs programs have been shown to positively benefit private employers by increasing productivity, financial well-being, and customer satisfaction [ix].
Do Transitional Jobs workers displace existing workers?
If implemented properly, Transitional Jobs programs do not displace incumbent workers, nor can they be used to undermine private- or public-sector union workers. Transitional Jobs participants are by definition working in subsidized positions that are time-limited—typically 6 months or less, which means they cannot function as permanent substitutes for existing workers. Also, TJ participants typically have barriers and skills needs that would otherwise prevent them from successful employment, which means they are often not qualified to replace experienced employees working at full productivity. TJ programs that place participants in industries or public-sector worksites with unionized workers typically partner with unions to ensure that nondisplacement policies and grievance procedures are in place, and that TJ workers complement, rather than infringe upon, union workers’ positions. Moreover, several TJ programs have worked with unions to help prepare TJ participants with the necessary skills and experience to join unions once they transition to the competitive labor market.
Does subsidizing wages erode private sector job growth?
Especially in times of high unemployment, subsidizing wages forestalls the erosion of jobs and supports employers in maintaining or increasing productivity. In an economy in which there are multiple jobseekers for every available position, adding subsidized jobs is unlikely to sap investment or participation in the competitive labor market. Moreover, because the individuals typically placed in transitional employment would not otherwise be working due to barriers and the need to develop work-readiness skills, the threat of displacement of incumbent workers is very low. Finally, subsidized employment initiatives help small businesses and non-profits that can’t afford to add staff to increase capacity and productivity.
What are barriers to employment?
Many people who want to work experience structural, personal or situational factors that prevent or inhibit their success in finding and keeping a job. Often an individual will face multiple barriers at once, further reducing the likelihood of securing work without assistance. These barriers include:
- Lack of prior work history or experience
- Low literacy and numeracy or low educational attainment
- A criminal record or recent incarceration
- Long-term reliance on public benefits
- Homelessness or housing insecurity
- Lack of reliable transportation or childcare
- Lack of the “soft skills” needed for success in the workplace, such as cooperation with supervisors and coworkers, punctuality, personal presentation and customer service
How motivated to work are people with barriers to employment?
Earned income is critical for low-income individuals and families to meet their basic needs and rise out of poverty. When given the opportunity to work the vast majority of individuals with barriers to employment do. In one study, almost 98 percent of individuals took the Transitional Job when offered it [x].
Why should we care about transitioning people with barriers to employment to work?
The number of people with barriers to employment who are unable to secure work represents a tremendous loss of productivity, economic growth, and human potential. Transitional Jobs participants overwhelmingly want to work, are typically very poor, are often trying to support families, and have no other options for earning income. America is strongest when everyone who wants to work has the opportunity to get and keep a job. Given the growing number of individuals that face barriers to employment and those who are chronically unemployed, doing nothing is not an option.
What is the National Transitional Jobs Network?
The NTJN is a national coalition dedicated to getting chronically unemployed Americans back to work. We advance employment solutions including Transitional Jobs that combine wage-paid work, job skills training, and supportive services to help individuals facing barriers to employment succeed in the workforce. We believe that every person deserves the opportunity to work and support themselves and their families and that America is stronger when everyone who wants to work can find a job. We open doors to work through Transitional Jobs programs, research and evaluation, education and training, and policy advocacy. Our coalition is made up of city, state, and federal policy makers; community workforce organizations; and anti-poverty nonprofit service providers and advocacy organizations.