Technical Education and Advancement of the Homeless
By: Clark Thompson

Abstract:

         This paper is about how a homeless or low-income individual can get information and help on getting computer help and training for a job. I found some great programs that were really helpful to these types of people and I also found some programs that had to many rules and requirements to be helpful. JTPA seemed to be a great program but it is dissolving in the summer of 2000 and the new program is WIA. This new program is an improvement on the former program and seems to help a whole lot better.

           When confronted with the problem of getting the homeless or low-income class out of there sometimes difficult situations. The first thing that was thought was, what would be the best way to get them up and out of their present conditions? It was found that one of the greatest and easiest tools for doing this is the Internet. If we could get the information for jobs, how to go about getting jobs, what are requirements are there for certain jobs, and pretty much anything you need to know concerning the homeless to the homeless. When doing this, the first and foremost thing that needs to be done is getting the people who need this help accustomed to using a computer. Most of the homeless or low-income people have never used a computer in their entire lives.  Even the simple phrase "double click" is foreign to them.  

            The first goal was to find out how and where a homeless or low-income citizen could go and get some basic computer training so that they can access some of the job sites, résumé makers, and tons of other helpful things on the Internet. The first place that came to mind was my local community centers. I tried a couple of them but the only computer training classes that they taught if any were ones for middle school and high school kids.  This wasn’t good at all because they are the ones that are supposed to help the homeless and know what is best for them. I guess that their main focus was in housing for the homeless and education for the kids in needy families.  These things probably should be their main focus, but after you have housing and have some sort of education for your kids you need to maintain this quality of living through a job that can provide these things.  The community centers do a great job in giving the people that are in need what they need but they lack in providing a firm foundation for these people to build on.  They need to be taught how to survive in today’s society and also need to be taught haw to manage their day in and day out activities like a job, getting their kids to school, and just taking care of what needs to be taken care of. 

         The next place I looked was a place where the homeless could get access to computers for free and that was the library.  I talked to one of the heads of the computer department of the library and they said that they had no computer training or even a help session what so ever.  To find out that they had nothing to do with the people that come in there and try to use the computers was kind of disappointing also.  The worst thing about the library was that you aren’t allowed to use disks with the computers.  I thought this was awful.  If someone wanted to go and make their résumé online and post it to the job sites online they would need to put it on disk and then go back every now and then and post it again for a job.  I understand the risk of viruses inhabiting the system but they still had so reason to do that.   I believe that it is more important that a person get a job so that they can support their family or purchase a home than ending the risk of viruses on 1000 dollar computers that are worthless in the grand scheme of things.  

         After searching and coming up with only disappointment in my fellow man I decided to try my community college.  After speaking to one of the people in the computer training facility over at the community college, I found that they don’t have a free or low cost basic computer training class.  The only class that they offered in basic computer training was a class that costs from 110 dollars to 175 dollars.  The cost covered everything including books but it was still too high for the ones who really needed it to survive in our society.  I decided to get a second opinion with another community college up the road that is a Baptist college.  I thought for sure that having a religious background would make the school more inclined to have such a program that would cost little or no money for a person that had needs that meet certain requirements.  I was let down by this community college also.  While I was speaking to the computer training representative, I was told of some programs where all of the computer training classes were paid for a homeless or low-income people in order for them to get back out in the work place.  

         One of the services that offer to pay for homeless or low-income people to get basic computer training so that they can get into the work place is a program called Job Service.  Job Service is a good program; it pays for someone to get training to get back into the job force, but it has a catch.  To qualify for this service you have to be laid off from work or the place that you work has to have been closed.  You then have to go through a series of tests to see if you qualify for this service.  It is my understanding that a homeless person would not qualify if they haven’t been laid off or lost their job to closure.  I bet there are a lot of people out there that should qualify for this service but don’t just because of these needless rules.  I was again disappointed in this service and it really seems that someone needs to step forward and take these programs and make something that the average homeless or low-income person can use. 

         The final one of the services that offers to pay for homeless or low-income people to get basic computer training that I could find is a program called the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA).  Susan Kellam, a writer for the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, stated that, "The Job Training Partnership Act replaced the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act or CETA in 1982 to provide job training programs for the poor"  (Kellam, 1342).  A lot of people in congress didn’t like this new job training program because unlike the CETA it does a great job in getting the applicants training but it does not provide employment opportunities for them.  After looking through the National JTPA Study I came to believe that this new program does a pretty good job at what it is intended to do.  One of JTPA’s main goals is to reduce the dependence of people on Welfare.  The study shows that JTPA did reduce the dependence on Welfare for the areas that JTPA was in but this really didn’t make up for the large cost to the tax payers of the states that JTPA institutions reside in.  The Industrial and Labor Relations Review did a review of this study and the Vernon Briggs said that: 

The major lesson that I take from this study is that JTPA – with its absence of stipends for trainees, its emphasis on performance standards, its reduction in funding levels, and its exclusion of direct job creation – was a step backward from earlier progressive evolution of legislature efforts to prepare the nations economically disadvantaged persons for jobs.  (529)

        After reading these studies and reviews I saw that there are many different views of this program and that if it can really help the disadvantaged at all.  I figure it is not a fix for the problem but it is something that is being done.  The main thing that made me mad is that these people who are critiquing this program are not doing anything to improve it or start a better program.  They sit there and say how bad it is and how it isn’t helping the people it was intended to help and don’t do anything about it.  These people need to get out there and do something.  I decided that I wanted to find out exactly what JTPA did and how they were or weren’t helping the people that the program was intended to help.  A quote from Training: the Magazine of Human Resources Development, says that:

How has the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) of 1982, designed to provide training and retraining for disadvantaged youths and displaced workers, worked? Not bad.  JTPA seems to have put more people actually into jobs than previous government training plans. Some, however, feel that JTPA is not helping the hardcore unemployed. Still, JTPA is better than nothing, and clearly better than its government predecessor, CETA (the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act).  (54)

JTPA was doing a pretty good job of getting the unemployed into jobs so I wanted to go and talk to them to see exactly was going on.  When I went to talk to one of the head guys at the JTPA center I found that a new program is going to be implemented this summer.  The new program is called the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) and it will replace the Job Training Investment Act in South Carolina on July 1, 2000.  It seems to be much better than the JTPA program.  Dean Jones, one of the guys working with this new program, said that job seekers can access their employment and training needs through One-Stop Resource Centers within their communities regardless of income, eligibility, guidelines, or where they live.  This program takes the “work-first” approach in providing employment and training.  This approach is comprised of three steps.  The first goal in these steps is to see if the individual has the skills to obtain a job.  These One-Stop Resource Centers will provide workforce development services under a three categories.  The first, called Core Services, according to Dean Jones:

Any individual can access job search tools and information at the One-Stop Center.  Core services may be provided electronically (Internet job search at many links such as America's Job Bank, Eonlinks, and many Federal, State, Local and private websites).  Whenever the job seeker needs staff assistance, that individual will be registered.  All registered individuals may receive additional supportive services such as childcare assistance, transportation assistance, and will receive follow-up services after entry into employment just to ensure they have benefited from the
program.  (interview)

If the individual in this program can’t complete a job search and obtain a job they may be presented with the next category called Intensive Services.  In this category these services "go beyond the simple job search" by providing more staff intervention. The staff sits down and determines why the individual cannot obtain employment.  For the staff to do this they might use academic and vocational assessments to see what the individuals needs are.  If needed the staff will help the individual in resume writing, interviewing skills training and give them short-term vocational skills such as introduction to computers, etc.  According to Dean Jones, if the individual is not able to get a job after receiving core and intensive services, the individual may obtain a “training voucher” through the One-Stop Center and choose a training program from a state approved “training provider list.”  They have the option of choosing a training program that best meets their needs and redeem the “voucher” when their training starts.  Some of the other things that you can get from these centers are federal, state, and local job listings, job referrals, employment skill workshops, internet resources, information on training programs, e-mail, etc.  All of these services and training is open to the public and all of the fees are paid by state and federal funds.  
 
            The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) seems to be a great program for someone to get a job.  It meets pretty much all the needs of the low-income or homeless people who want to get jobs.  Unlike Job Service or any other program like that, WIA doesn’t require that you be laid off from work or have anything special happen to you for you to be eligible for this service.  You just show up and tell them what you need and they will do the best they can to meet those needs.  
 
          Through all of the research that I have done trying to find a good place for the homeless or low-income people to get help with jobs, I have found that the WIA service is the best one around.  Through the research and talking to people about this subject, the people I have talked to really discouraged me about the availability of programs such as WIA.  I feel that the same will happen to an individual if they want to find out information on such programs.  It seems to me that they will come in contact with these programs that have certain requirements to be enrolled.  These individuals will probably be turned away by this and then question if they can really be helped.  We just need to get the word out on these programs and tell them how they can really help anyone’s situation.  We are going to use the Internet to do this because it is free for them and it is a great tool for them to use, if we can just get them on computers and using it.


Bibliography


1.  Kellam, Susan.  “How JTPA works. (Job Training Partnership Act of 1982).”   Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report  16 May. 1992:  1243.
 
2.  Lee, Chris.  “What’s the Word on JTPA?  (Job Training Partnership Act of 1982).”  Training:  the Magazine of Human Resources Development.  May 1986: 46.

3.  Briggs Jr., Vernon M.  “Does Training for the Disadvantaged Work?  Evidence from the National JTPA Study.  (book reviews).”  Industrial and Labor Relations Review.  April 1997.  529.

4.  Jones, Dean.  Interview.  24 April.  2000. 

5.  Bloom, Howard S.  Orr, Larry L.  Bell, Stephen H.  Cave, George.  Doolittle, Fred.  Lin, Winston.  Bos, Johannes M.  The Benefits and Costs of JTPA Title II-A Programs.  New York.  April 1996.

6.  U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. Workforce Investment Act of 1998.  Washington.  September 1998.

7.  U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.  Summary of Workforce Development Provisions of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. Washington.  10 August 1998.

8.  Job Link Center:  One-Stop Career Center.  Workforce Investment Act and the County of Greenville.  2000.