Panel Paper: Creating Employment Opportunities for People with High Barriers to Employment By Bridging Private Social Enterprise Organizations and the Public Workforce System: An Impact Study of the Los Angeles Regional Initiative for Social Enterprise (LA:RISE)

Thursday, November 7, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Ballroom F (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Christian Geckeler, Leela Hebbar, Lea Folsom, Anne Paprocki, Joshua Mallet and Maureen Sarver, Social Policy Research Associates

This paper describes findings from Social Policy Research Associates’ evaluation of the Los Angeles Regional Initiative for Social Enterprise (LA:RISE), a transitional employment program started by the Los Angeles Economic and Workforce Development Department in partnership with the California-based non-profit, REDF. The goal of LA:RISE was to help individuals with high barriers to employment gain work experience and develop the hard and soft skills needed to find and maintain long-term employment. The program enrolled individuals from three priority populations within Los Angeles: those with justice system backgrounds, those at risk of homelessness, and opportunity youth, or youth, ages 18 to 24 years old who are not involved in school or work. Funded through a Workforce Innovation Fund grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, the LA:RISE program brought together numerous partner organizations, including private, social enterprise organizations, publicly-funded workforce development system agencies, community-based non-profit service providers, and employers. Services involved transitional employment combined with case management and supportive services, and various interventions designed to mitigate shortcomings observed in the research around other transitional employment programs—namely a decline in long-term employment by participants. LA:RISE services therefore included job readiness assessment training and testing, a minimum work hours requirement, co-enrollment in and coordination with WIOA adult services, long-term support services, and partnerships with a wide range of employers open to hiring individuals who fit the program’s demographic.

The LA:RISE program operated three years from 2015 to 2018 and enrolled 508 individuals (with slightly fewer actually enrolled into the evaluation). During the 20-month intake period, the six social enterprise organizations that coordinated and delivered transitional employment and served as the point of entry into the program, randomly assigned eligible and interested individuals such that 50 percent of applicants were assigned to the program group and 50 percent were assigned to the control group. This paper focuses on findings from the impact study which followed participants for up to two years past the point of random assignment and which relies on administrative data from various state and local agencies.

The presentation will discuss the key findings from the impact study, including outcomes on recidivism and employment. The presentation will also describe the implementation study findings, including lessons learned by EWDD, REDF and the many partners about building such a large network of interconnected services that has served them well as they have continued the program into subsequent generations and expanded its network of partners and services. The presentation will also briefly touch on the evaluation’s cost study and cost-effectiveness analysis. The findings from this evaluation are particularly policy-relevant given the emphasis the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) places on serving individuals with high barriers to employment, especially within California, and given the interest workforce system agencies are placing on strategies such as transitional employment. The paper will also add to the knowledge base about what is known about the limitations of transitional employment as a model for working with individuals with high barriers to employment.