Lessons Learned Delivering Remote Services to Job Seekers with Low Incomes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Publication Date: August 4, 2021
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  • Published: 2021

Introduction

Research Questions

  1. How have employment-focused organizations changed their service delivery in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
  2. What were common challenges that made it difficult for participants to engage in remote services?
  3. How did organizations adapt their service delivery to address those challenges?

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations that serve job seekers who have low incomes were forced to adapt to new forms of service delivery. Many organizations delivered services remotely, some for the first time. Through interviews with leaders and frontline staff, this brief examines how three organizations that had been implementing work readiness and education and training services changed how they implemented those services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This brief describes the adaptations the organizations made and highlights lessons learned. The interventions implemented by these organizations were identified as interventions that work—meaning, they had received a “supported” evidence rating by the Clearinghouse —before they were delivered remotely. Lessons learned from these service adaptations can help other organizations offering similar employment services remotely.

The findings in this brief are based on information gathered from an Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) site in Des Moines, WA; Project Quality Employment Through Skills Training (QUEST) in San Antonio, TX; and a Wisconsin Regional Training Partnerships (WRTP) site in Milwaukee, WI.

Purpose

This brief describes the experiences of three organizations that adapted existing interventions to provide remote work readiness activities or education and training services during the COVID-19 pandemic. It summarizes common challenges that made it difficult for participants to engage in remote services, adaptations made by the organizations, and considerations for remote service delivery after the pandemic. The experiences of these organizations can help other organizations offering similar employment services remotely.

Key Findings and Highlights

Participants faced common challenges to engaging in remote services, such as conflicts with caregiving responsibilities, access to adequate technological resources, and computer skills.  However, the three organizations we interviewed found creative ways of addressing these challenges.  These creative adaptations included:

  • Using multiple modalities to present session content;
  • Modifying intervention policies;
  • Providing technology assistance to participants;
  • Increasing the frequency of interactions and communications with participants;
  • Updating organizational infrastructure and providing additional support to staff to adapt to new technology.

The organizations included in this brief were planning to continue to use materials and content they adapted and created during the pandemic.  They are also considering ways in which ongoing use of remote service delivery might make it easier for more job seekers with low incomes to access employment services.

Methods

The information in this brief comes from interviews with staff of three employment-focused organizations implementing interventions identified as effective—meaning, they were rated as supported in at least one outcome domain—by the Pathways Clearinghouse before the COVID-19 pandemic. Mathematica conducted one-hour interviews with seven total frontline staff and organization leaders to learn more about their remote services. Mathematica interviewed staff in December 2020 and January 2021.

Citation

Ruggiero, Ryan, Eddins, Katie, and Benjamin Christensen (2021). Lessons learned delivering remote services to job seekers with low incomes during the COVID-19 pandemic, OPRE Report 2021-159, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.