What are the best placement strategies for California’s long term unemployed?

This week a consortium of four California Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) is launching a project to address this question. The project in its first months will take a critical look at existing long term unemployed (LTU) projects throughout the nation. Starting in early 2015, it enroll LTU participants and test placement strategies in California.

The number of long term unemployed (those unemployed more than 26 weeks) has been decreasing over the past two years in California, but still stands at 548,800 Californians in the latest month of August 2014. As the chart below, forwarded by EDD labor market specialist Mr. Brandon Hooker, indicates, the number of LTU is over 36% of the total unemployed of 1,505,000—a far higher percentage than prior to the Great Recession (click on chart to enlarge).

bernicklongtermThe consortium is led by the Southeast Los Angeles county Consoritum (SELACO) and its director, Ms. Yolanda Castro, and the other WIBs are NOVA, Monterey, and Kern County. The Aspen Institute and the California Workforce Association are project partners.

Both nationwide and statewide, the LTU have emerged as one of the main targets of workforce policy— today behind only Veterans in priority. One result: a good number of important-sounding conferences on the long-term unemployed and meetings, which of course have not helped one worker get a job. But there also have been a number of more serious projects undertaken.

Among these projects, there have been at least six main approaches. These include: 1. Encouraging employers to revise hiring practices seen as undermining the job prospects of the LTU; 2. Increased employer outreach to the LTU and seeking voluntary commitments by employers to hire 3. Assignment of career counselors/job placement specialists to the LTU for 3 months, free of charge; 4. Increased mentoring and support services for the LTU, 5. Subsidized “try out” employment for the LTU, and 6. an advertising campaign to address the “stigma” of LTU.

Most of what has been written about these projects are puff pieces, with little critical analysis or placement/retention numbers. A task of this new California project is to cut through the rhetoric to do the critical analysis needed.

The main task of this new project, of course, is to actually recruit and place California’s LTU into jobs, be honest and learn from results. We’ll continue to report back.