Conference Sessions

We're hard at work putting together amazing conference panels, workshops, and discussions. Take a look at what we've got scheduled so far, and come back soon to see what we've added. 


Programming and Systems Strategies for Connecting Homeless Youth with Employment
There are many ways in which youth experiencing homelessness benefit from work, including building skills, improving the prospect of lifelong earnings, meeting basic needs, and becoming and remaining stably housed. This session will discuss systems-level efforts to help youth experiencing homelessness access employment, with an example from Hennepin County, MN. The session will also have an example of effective programming for homeless youth that includes social enterprise employment.

WorkDev 2.0: Innovations in Using Apps and the Web to Engage and Support Jobseekers
Social media, smartphones, and other means of digital communication have changed the way we interact with one another, and workforce programs are adapting in innovative ways. In this session, hear from employment service providers who have developed tools to engage jobseekers, support their skill development, connect them with their peers, and match them with employment opportunities using new technologies. 

Could Universal Basic Income End Poverty?
All over the world, people across the political spectrum are increasingly talking about the idea of a universal basic income, especially in light of imminent new technologies like self-driving vehicles. Could ending poverty and economic insecurity really be as simple as unconditionally providing every citizen enough cash to forever live above the poverty line? Could giving people money without requiring work actually lead to more work, not less, and an economy that works for everyone, not just the few? What are the ins and outs of such a potentially transformative new policy? Join in an interactive discussion with writer and basic income advocate, Scott Santens, to unpack the complexities of universal basic income and its potential role in ending poverty.

Social Enterprise and Public Procurement Opportunities
Many social enterprises earn revenue through contracts with state and local governments. Those contracts can be very competitive, and governments’ selection processes typically don’t account for the ways in which hiring social enterprises can produce additional public benefits. This session will explore the policy opportunities to position social enterprises as qualified competitive bidders for public procurement and contracts and hear about two successful models of working with State and local government. Session speakers include staff from REDF, the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), and Civicorps.

Evidence-Based Sector Training Advancement Strategies: Findings from the WorkAdvance Study
Sector-based training, when developed in close partnership with employers, is supported by growing evidence as a way to help low-income workers advance into positions with the prospect of higher wages, opportunities for promotions, and access to employer-provided benefits. The latest study to build on the evidence supporting sector training is the WorkAdvance demonstration, which showed statistically significant impacts on participants’ long-term earnings and advancement. This session will provide an overview of the demonstration by the researcher MDRC, as well as the experiences of two program providers that took part in the study.

Individualized Placement and Support for Varied Populations
Individualized Placement and Support, also known as Supported Employment, is a well-established evidence-based model for helping people with mental illness access employment. Recently, IPS has been offered to populations beyond its traditional target population. In this session attendees will hear from two such initiatives, one serving recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and one serving refugees. Attendees will receive an overview of the IPS model, a review of its existing evidence base, and the experiences of initiatives in adapting, implementing, and evaluating IPS as delivered to new populations.

Best and Promising Practices in Employment Service Delivery for Rapid Re-Housing Participants
Rapid re-housing providers recognize that their participants often need robust employment and training services and supports in order to improve their economic situations and maintain housing on their own following program exit. In this session, hear best and promising practices in designing and delivering employment services for rapid re-housing participants.  

Aligning and Coordinating Systems to Improve Employment Outcomes for Rapid Re-Housing Participants
As rapid re-housing comes to scale, homeless services, workforce development, and other systems will need to coordinate to ensure that all rapid re-housing participants can access the appropriate services and supports that will help them get, keep, and advance in work and stabilize in housing following the end of their rental subsidy. In this session, hear about innovative approaches that are underway across to the country to align and coordinate funding streams and systems, including the public workforce system, so that rapid re-housing participants can access and succeed in employment and training and move toward economic stability.


The Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration: The Latest Research Findings on Transitional Jobs
The Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration is a multi-site, random-assignment study of Transitional Jobs programs across the country targeting noncustodial parents and people returning home from incarceration. The first findings from this rigorous national demonstration are now available. Cindy Redcross of MDRC will share the study’s findings and interpret their implications for future subsidized employment programming and policy. Debby Kratky of Workforce Solutions of Tarrant County, TX, one of the ETJD sites, will discuss Tarrant County’s experience in ETJD and share her perspectives on how Tarrant County was able to demonstrate reductions in recidivism for its participants. 

Making Infrastructure Jobs Work for All: How Communities are Ensuring that Infrastructure and Community Economic Development Initiatives are Inclusive
Estimates suggest that nearly $3.6 trillion is needed to repair America’s crumbling infrastructure. Learn how communities are working to ensure that city and federal infrastructure and community economic development projects are being designed to ensure that they meet the employment needs of individuals, and especially individuals of color, who have been historically locked out of these jobs.

Putting Healthcare Dollars to Work for Jobseekers Facing Barriers to Employment
The expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act opens up new opportunities to leverage healthcare funding to create job opportunities for individuals facing barriers to employment, including homeless jobseekers. In this session, learn about innovative efforts in California and Illinois to use healthcare funds to finance employment-related benefits and how these mechanisms can work in your state. The session will feature speakers from the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), REDF, and Heartland Alliance’s Policy & Advocacy Team.

Preventing and Reducing Youth Violence Using Employment and Career Pathways Frameworks
Violence against and perpetrated by youth is costly, decreases productivity, erodes communities, and has a disproportionate impact on youth of color and LGBTQ youth in particular. Research continues to demonstrate the employment interventions and career pathways frameworks can be effective at preventing and mitigating violence—but there's still much to learn. In this session, participants will hear more about how subsidized employment and career pathway frameworks can be applied as part of youth violence prevention and reduction strategies. Examples from two cities that have adopted these frameworks and led initiatives will be featured as well as what we're learning from research.

Towards a Standardized Job Readiness Framework: Lessons and Curriculum from the Field
While nearly all workforce organizations offer some version of “job readiness” training for their clients, the content covered, delivery methods used, and length vary widely from program to program. This lack of standardization means individual organizations continuously reinvent the wheel in the quest to develop an appropriate job readiness curriculum. To address this inefficiency and help ensure consistent quality of service delivery, the Chicago Job Council’s Frontline Focus Training Institute has drawn from best practices collected from the field over the past 10 years to develop a career readiness framework to standardize job readiness training. This session will highlight how this framework was developed and is being tested and provide an in-depth look into select parts of the curriculum. Attendees will receive free access to the downloadable curriculum.

Benchmarks for Success: A Best Practices Framework for Workforce Development Organizations
Through the National Workforce Benchmarking Network, ongoing effort has been made to document the strategies of high-performing workforce development organizations. This living rubric of best practices now serves as a framework for the workforce development field. In Chicago and several other cities across the country, selected learning cohorts are using this framework to evaluate programming, improve internal processes, and ultimately impact jobseeker outcomes. Through an organizational self-assessment process, staff at all levels have come together to engage in meaningful conversations about program operations and develop incremental, manageable plans for improvement. Join us to learn more about the framework, how it’s been used to date, and how you can use it at your organization.  

Let’s Make WIOA Work for All: Leveraging WIOA Dollars for Transitional Jobs
Did you know that Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding can be used to implement Transitional Jobs (TJ) programs for jobseekers facing barriers to employment? In this session, learn why Workforce Investment Boards should use their WIOA dollars for TJ programs and how communities can implement TJ successfully even in an environment of limited resources.

Helping Opportunity Youth Succeed in Employment: Principles, Practices, and Innovations
In this session, learn about strategies for designing, implementing, and improving employment services for opportunity youth facing the greatest barriers to employment, including youth experiencing homelessness. The session will feature Bright Endeavors, a Chicago-based social enterprises helping young mothers facing barriers to employment succeed in work.

Delivering Trauma-Informed Care in an Employment Context
Many jobseekers facing barriers to employment have experienced trauma as a result of living in poverty, experiencing homelessness, or having been incarcerated, among other reasons. In a session led by staff from Heartland Health Outreach, learn about practical tools and resources available to support a trauma-informed care approach to your employment program service delivery.

Enhancing Coordinated Entry with Employment
Learn about how to enhance your community’s homeless services system by incorporating employment assessment and resources into coordinated entry. Speakers will discuss their planning, implementation, and reflections on incorporating an employment assessment within their housing service network.

Forging Strong Partnerships Between CoCs and Workforce Boards
Join a discussion on building a shared vision and partnerships between workforce boards and homeless services providers. You also will learn about training workforce providers on how to identify and help homeless jobseekers.

Practical Guidance for Effective Employer Engagement
Building and maintaining mutually-beneficial employer relationships with employers is among the most critical and the most challenging imperatives for any employment program. In this session we’ll hear a variety of successful workforce professionals describe their techniques for getting employers’ buy-in, understanding and meeting employers’ needs, making successful matches between jobseekers and employers, and building long-term relationships and repeat business with employer partners.

Asset Building for Low-Income Jobseekers: Practice and Policy
Asset development and financial coaching are pivotal to helping employment program participants gain solid footing for long-term financial stability. Join us to learn about practical asset building tools and resources for programs as well as a discussion about state-level policy advocacy on behalf of those you serve.

Open Our Eyes: The Intersection of Racism, Homelessness, and Economic Opportunity
Led by Jeff Olivet and Marc Dones of the Center for Social Innovation, this is a facilitated discussion on the intersection of racism, homelessness, and economic opportunity. The session facilitators will offer a framework and discussion questions for understanding how racism impacts who becomes homeless and informs our society’s response to homelessness as well as how employment, workforce development, and economic opportunity factor into this relationship. Discussion will be aimed at lifting up the issues and surfacing ways in which employment service providers, housing service providers, and respective systems can address homelessness and economic exclusion through confronting embedded systemic racism.

The Employment Navigator Model: An Innovation Boosting Access to Employment Services
Learn about the basics of the Employment Navigator model from Building Changes, the organization that pioneered the use of navigators to help people experiencing homelessness access services through the public workforce system. We will also hear from the YWCA of Richmond, VA, which replicated the navigator model to serve survivors of domestic violence who are enrolled in rapid re-housing.

Assessing for “Work Readiness”: What Works?
Are there good existing work readiness assessment tools for jobseekers facing barriers to employment? If not, what would it take to develop one? What factors predict success in employment? How do we define “work readiness” and what are we trying to measure? Weigh in on these questions and more in a discussion session led by John Rio of Advocates for Human Potential.

Child Support: Innovations in State Policy to Remove Barriers to Work
Nearly a third of parents who are ordered to pay child support earn less than $12,700 per year, and among noncustodial parents who owe more than $100,000 in child support arrearages the median income is just $4,470 per year. Learn from state level advocates about innovative policy change that is opening doors to employment and removing barriers to work for noncustodial parents with significant child support arrearages. The federal Office of Child Support Enforcement will also discuss the future of child support policy as well as how the office is preparing for the change in administration.

TANF: The Past, the Present, and the Future of Ending Welfare As We Know It
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program has been one of the most studied, evaluated, and debated pieces of American public policy of the last twenty years. TANF has raised important questions and concerns about the role of the safety net in the lives of poor, single female heads of household. On a national scale, and in localities across the country, program designers, implementers, advocates, researchers, and thought leaders alike have been at odds with the program’s multiple—and often times conflicting—goals. Join us for this session to take a look back at the last twenty years of TANF implementation, what’s happening now, and what advocates and others are thinking about the future of safety net policy and supporting pathways to work and opportunity.

SNAP Employment & Training: What Your State Might be Missing Out On
SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) Programs aim to help SNAP recipients facing barriers to employment transition into work with self or family-sustaining wages. Many SNAP recipients are likely to face barriers to employment and able-bodied adults without dependents, or ABAWDs, who receive SNAP are especially likely to face significant barriers to employment. Learn how communities are leveraging the SNAP E&T resources to support jobseekers facing barriers to employment in getting access to employment and supports and what your state could be doing.  

Coordinating Systems and Matching Jobseekers to Services: Piloting an Integrated Reentry & Employment Strategy in Milwaukee County
Connection to employment has been shown to be effective in reducing recidivism among individuals returning to communities from incarceration. The Council of State Governments Justice Center chose Milwaukee County as a pilot site to test its strategy to match returning citizens to appropriate employment services based on their recidivism risk and work readiness. The success of the project hinges on coordination and cooperation among the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, the local Workforce Investment Board (Employ Milwaukee), and a wide range of community-based organizations.  Hear the project leads discuss their successes and challenges in systems coordination and other lessons learned from Year 1 of the pilot.

Wage Theft: How Do We Stop the Race to the Bottom?
Those facing barriers to employment are also likely to belong to populations most vulnerable to wage theft. Existing protections against wage theft do not go far enough, are not adequately enforced, and do not sufficiently raise industry standards or help exploited workers. Join this discussion to learn more, share lessons learned, and brainstorm creative policy solutions.

Employment First: A “Housing First” Approach to Employment for People Experiencing Homelessness
Most people experiencing homelessness rank employment as one of their most important needs along with housing and health care, and for many earned income is an absolute necessity for becoming and remaining stably housed. Jean-Michel Giraud of Friendship Place in Washington, DC, will lead a discussion on how rapidly connecting individuals to employment can support stability, recovery, and self-efficacy for people experiencing homelessness.

Meeting the Needs of Older and Out-Of-School Youth through WIOA
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) prioritizes services to older and out-of-school youth who likely face significant barriers to employment. Learn about what it will take to make WIOA successful for these young people and what’s already happening across the country. This session will touch on topics including best and promising employment program practices for serving older and out-of-school youth, shaping quality program standards, and organizational and administrative capacity-building approaches.

Strategies for Behavior Change Among the Most Vulnerable Youth
Roca, Inc., one of the most innovative programs in the country serving high-risk youth with employment services, has long applied therapeutic concepts such as change theory into its employment programming. Lili Elkins of Roca will introduce Roca’s new cognitive-behavioral curriculum in the context of the organization’s unique approach to serving the hardest-to-reach young people.