Work is central to the American experience. Having a job, enjoying the many benefits that come from employment, providing for one’s family, setting examples for our children, and looking forward to a secure retirement are among the top achievements we all aspire to.
Gainful employment is one of our most essential building blocks for strong, healthy, and productive individuals and families. The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), with and through its public human services agency members, is leading a major initiative to help make the experiences and benefits of gainful employment available to all. APHSA’s Center for Employment and Economic Well-Being (CEEWB) partners with APHSA members, stakeholders, and partners to:
The CEEWB works under consideration of a number of core principles. These deeply held premises, based upon the latest research and practice in the field, lead us to operate from the following understandings:
For working-age individuals and their families, having a job and staying in the workforce are critical to achieving greater independence. Employment is one of the surest and most long-lasting means to equip people with the lifetime tools they need for sustaining their incomes and dignity and avoiding future need for government support. Human service agencies, along with their workforce development partners, the economic development community, the education and training system, and other stakeholders, play a critical role in preparing individuals for employment and supporting their success in the workforce.
For individuals and families, successful and sustained employment is often more than getting that first job or returning to the workforce; they typically need support and opportunities for becoming work-ready, finding and securing a job, staying in the workforce over time, and skill development and job advancement.
Once these basic employment elements are in place, the ability to build assets helps individuals and families move even more securely down the road to independence. Greater opportunities to accumulate wealth, such as Individual Development Accounts, are a necessary element of true long-term success. Similarly, tax code changes such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Care Tax Credit have dramatically reinforced the importance of maintaining a regular wage and steady employment.
Employment and achieving independence constitutes a process, not a one-time event. This outcome, therefore, encompasses a variety of supports, services, and approaches tailored to the degree of individual need. These include time-limited, flexible work support funds like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program; income supports, when needed, for food assistance, health care, behavioral health care (including mental health and substance abuse treatment), and housing; appropriate training for career readiness and workforce development services; and access as necessary to critical work supports such as child care and transportation assistance.
These services and supports help prepare the supply side of the labor market, but can succeed only in partnership with demand-side strategies that engage employers and economic developers. Economic development is essential for strong employment, but often does not invest in the needs of low-income populations. Support for community development is also critical, such as that provided by the Community Development Block Grant and the Community Services Block Grant. For some individuals, such as those with significant disabilities and the re-entry population, other services and supports may be needed to provide opportunities for integrated employment and success at work.