There are two types of placements: direct and indirect. A direct placement is one where the program places a job seeker directly in a job. An indirect placement is one where the job seeker places themselves. The actual number of indirect placements is unknown (estimates range from 30-50%).
There is little debate about what constitutes a successful workforce program. Program success is mainly determined by entered employment rates irrespective of how a job seeker actually gets a job.
While few would discount the impact programs with high levels of indirect placements (and not the intention of this article), the fact that large numbers of job seekers are placing themselves raises some important questions about how to best assist job seekers in securing a job.
“They didn’t get me a job. I got the job on my own!” is a sentiment echoed by many youth workforce program participants. Opinions such as the quote mentioned above unfairly discount the programs’ impact on the person’s ability to find and secure work. Workforce services impact a client’s ability to place themselves on a job in many ways- better interviewing skills, polished resumes, an industry recognized credential, all could be driving factors that enable clients to find work on their own.
Or maybe not.
Indirect placements can be a testament to the social capital already possessed by the young job seeker and completely missed by the workforce system. It may indicate a lack of cultural competence about the value and power of the social capital in the lives of job seekers. Without an understanding of the value of this asset, there is little chance of helping someone to invest in it..
Indirectly, workforce development may interfere with job seekers' engagement of their natural ties and consequently their success in securing meaningful employment. Job seekers may rely on the program to find a job rather than invest time and efforts in connecting with natural supports as much as their successful non-programmatic peers do. Without an understanding of this dynamic, many workforce programs may unintentionally help clients to lose returns on a valuable economic asset, an asset that can have exponential returns on investment - the social capital inherent in their natural networks.
Many job seekers who do not receive job training services get jobs through the natural labor connections and consequently entered the labor market quicker. Current research indicates that those who get jobs through informal networks receive higher pay and better quality jobs. While some job seekers are lamenting about their joblessness in classrooms, others are out there making connections, gaining valuable work experience and bartering labor market information.
Learning about the structures, roles, and functions that social capital plays in job seekers’ labor market success can lead to improved program performance and customer satisfaction. Implementing data management systems that identify the social capital used by job seekers to secure work can lead to redesigned intake and assessment procedures that benefits entire communities while recognizing that value inherent in it. . Learning how job seekers use social capital to access labor market information and what they do with that information can lead to improved “work-readiness” training curricula and design.
Finally, teaching job seekers about the value of social capital and the power of its reciprocal nature can lead to the building of communities of opportunity and address the biases that keep them from being built.
Edward DeJesus is the founder of Social Capital Builders. Check out our upcoming Social Capital Building Institute on Sept 23 - 24 in Baltimore, MD. https://www.socialcapitalbuilders.com/webinars-events