Chapter 5.3: Analytical Tools

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Geographic Information Systems

This example of GIS Mapping shows an overlay with welfare recipient residential locations in one of seven quadrants. Another overlay shows potential employers in all quadrants. The next overlay shows existing transit services in just some of those quadrants. Another overlay show unmet transit needs in all quadrants. The final overlay shows transit improvement options.Geographic Information System (GIS). GIS is a computerized system that integrates geographic and tabular data to show complex spatial information. Producing maps as part of the planning process can assist planners with identifying unmet transportation needs and developing effective transportation alternatives. Additionally, maps can be an effective means of showing decision-makers and members of the public gaps in transportation services.

GIS mapping in the job access planning process can produce the following maps:

  • Locations of Residences of Targeted Population
  • Locations of Likely Job Opportunities
  • Geographic Coverage of Transit Services
  • Locations of Childcare and Job Training Sites

GIS can produce individual maps, composite maps, or spatial overlay analyses. Each map produced with GIS software is actually a layer of information, and the different layers can be displayed on the same map, as depicted in the graphic on the previous page. This map illustrates the following:

  • Where the targeted population lives and where heaviest concentrations are located.
  • Where likely job opportunities are in relationship to where people live and where existing bus service operates.
  • The geographic coverage of existing transit services and the extent to which the services link people with likely job opportunities.

Additional software is required to display the road network on the map. There are generally two options for displaying the road network. Tiger Software is free of charge and available to the public but it is not the most current or complete road network available.

The second alternative is to purchase a complete updated road network from a vendor. In Wisconsin, this resulted in being able to plot 84% - 97% of all addresses.

Understanding Employer Needs

Merely matching job locations with job seeker residences is insufficient. The program should consider the type of job and prerequisite skills, the wage level relative to existing job options, and the willingness of employers to participate.

Job placement agencies understand the needs of local and regional employers. Planners however, may also need to gather additional information or supplement information from job placement agencies to design or improve services. Planners may choose to engage in an information gathering process designed to understand employers' needs and the characteristics of the job and labor market. The process is best conducted in partnership with job placement agencies, business organizations, and regional economic development agencies. Such a process is described below.

Employer Interviews and Outreach

Office building along a sidewalkThe first step in identifying employer needs is to determine who should be contacted. Contacting all employers within a metropolitan area will likely not be possible. Typically, a particular corridor or sub-area within a metropolitan region will be the primary geographic focus of the interviewers.

Identifying those industries with Standard Industrial Codes with entry-level or semi-skilled positions (or industries that need the skills of program participants) can also be helpful. The manufacturing, wholesale, retail and service sector industries typically offer entry-level or semi-skilled positions.

Another approach is to consider data helpful with identifying job opportunities:

  • Total number of employees: The greatest number of employment opportunities for welfare-to-work participants are found with small- to medium-sized companies.
  • Businesses where minimum skills are needed: A large percentage of people moving from welfare to work are likely to lack specialized technical skills and would not be eligible for advanced level employment.
  • Companies located in business or industrial parks, where transit services are most convenient.

Once a list of employers to contact has been developed, it is prudent to share the list with regional Chamber of Commerce or area-specific business development council. Staff with these organizations can identify a point person or identify additional companies to include on the list.

Employer Outreach Methods

Outreach methods to gather information from employers include the following:

  • Mailed surveys.
  • Face-to-face interviews.
  • Focus group meetings.

Employer surveys provide excellent information; however, few employers may take the time to complete and mail them. Interviews and focus group meetings are preferred as they generally provide more immediate results. Surveys require time to prepare, distribute and collect. If surveys are not returned within a specified time frame, follow-up phone calls are recommended, and it can be difficult to find the person who actually received the survey. Surveys to employers in the east metro suburbs of St. Paul, Minnesota, resulted in less than a 25 percent return rate. The information that was received, however, was uniformly complete and thoughtful.

A combination of outreach techniques may be useful as surveys and interviews can help shape and enhance focus group design. Through interviews, employment, skills/training, wage rate, and transportation issues can be identified. This information can then provide questions for a focus group and assist in interpreting employer responses and anecdotes.

Interview Process

Each company operates differently and finding the appropriate person to interview can be frustrating. In one company, the appropriate person may be the human resources director; in another, the administrative director is the most knowledgeable; and in a third the appropriate person may be a shift supervisor.

Companies are generally willing to cooperate with interview efforts, but time in the interview is time spent away completing a primary work task. The process must be well organized and managed. Experience has shown that an hour to an hour and a half interview is typically required to understand company-specific employment procedures and to gather quantitative and qualitative data.

Questions may include the following:

  • Entry-Level Staffing

    1. Define what you believe to be an "entry-level" job and the range of "entry-level" skills.
    2. How many jobs at your company does "entry-level" staff currently hold?
    3. How many current job openings are for entry-level positions?
    4. In your opinion, is the current number of entry-level job openings typical? Higher or lower than normal?
    5. What percentage of the entry-level jobs are full-time, non-seasonal positions?
    6. Does your company have difficulty filling entry-level positions? Do you believe the labor market is tighter than it was one year ago? Five years ago?
    7. Are some employees employed under a union contract? If so, please identify the percentage of total employees who are union and whether this includes entry-level employees.
    8. How important is on-time arrival and departure for your employees? How much flexibility is there in the arrival and departure time of entry-level employees?
  • Training

    1. What percentage of entry-level positions requires on-the-job training (other than job orientation)?
    2. Does your company have a formal training program? If so, does the program include entry-level employees?
    3. Does your company offer training as a means of enticing entry-level job applicants? If so, please describe the training program.
    4. What is the approximate cost of training an entry-level employee?
    5. Do you prefer that your entry-level employees demonstrate a certain level of skills? What are these?
  • Job Turnover

    1. How many people do you hire each year?
    2. Approximately how many positions in your company turn over each year?
    3. How many people retire each year?
    4. How many non-seasonal, permanent workers quit each year for non-disciplinary reasons?
    5. Have you experienced growth in the number of jobs over the last five years?
    6. How many temporary workers are currently working at your company? Are certain routine tasks assigned to temporary workers? Is it easy or difficult to move from temporary work to long-term jobs?
  • Employment Longevity

    1. What is the typical length of employment for workers holding entry-level jobs?
    2. Do entry-level employees typically move up into more skilled or better paying positions within the company? If so, how long do employees stay in entry-level positions before moving up within the company?
    3. For what reasons are entry-level people terminated or decide to leave your company?
  • Average Entry-Level Wages

    1. What is your company's typical wage for entry-level positions?
    2. Have you experienced upward pressure on entry-level wages? If yes, to what do you attribute the shift?
    3. Has your company's entry-level wage changed in the last year? (Up or down? By how much?)
  • Transportation Issues

    1. Is transportation a problem for your employees; particularly entry-level employees?
    2. What transportation benefits does your company provide to employees?
    3. Has your company investigated or taken advantage of the tax benefits related to providing transit and vanpool assistance to employees?
    4. If transportation were a barrier preventing entry-level job seekers from working at your company, would the company consider assisting with transportation expenses as an incentive to attract entry-level job applicants?
    5. Would the company consider providing a transportation subsidy directly to the employee?
    6. Would the company consider providing a transportation payment directly to a transportation service provider?
    7. Would the company financially support entry-level employees' transportation costs to take advantage of the treatment of such costs as allowable income dedications?
    8. Would the company be agreeable to a paying part of the cost of transportation services to entry-level employees?
  • Barriers to Hiring Inner-City Under-Employed

    1. In your opinion, are there any disadvantages to employing central-city residents, with limited or poor work records in your business?
    2. Do you see the labor pool in central-city neighborhoods as a potential source for workers in your company? Why or why not?
    3. Has it been your experience that recipients of economic assistance programs (AFDC, General Assistance, and Food Stamps) have the basic level of job readiness skills for entry-level positions in your company?
    4. Does your company have an outreach strategy aimed at current or former welfare participants? If yes, does it include a transportation support plan?

Employer Focus Group Meetings

Organizing focus groups is a time consuming process. The planners must get commitments from a suitable number of employers (including a cushion for those who will not show up), find suitable locations at a convenient time, and provide adequate notice and reminders to committed individuals.

Compiling Focus Group Results

Planners should note areas of agreement and disagreement in the focus group discussions and compare the findings of the interviews or surveys with the focus group results. Typical results should organize job characteristics by the following:

  • Industry sectors that pay lower hourly wages.
  • Industries or businesses that have more schedule flexibility and, as a result, can better address tardiness and absences related to limited transportation options.
  • Industries or businesses that require technical skills or enhanced communications, language, and interpersonal capabilities.

Interviews and focus groups allow for greater discussion of transportation issues. Anecdotal comments can provide illustrations and insight to tie into survey results or other data. Issues include frequency of service, scheduling to accommodate late shifts, and passenger facilities such as heated shelters.

The matrix on the following page presents a sample set of questions for employer focus group meetings.

Example Summary of Employer Focus Group Meetings

  1. Types of Employers (16 employers, 18 representatives)

    All but two employers were from the services sector. Types of businesses represented: health clinic, HMO, private university, hospital, technical school, travel agency/tour operator, department store, accounting firm, wholesale grocer, warehouser/distributor, and machine shop.

  2. Number of Entry-Level Positions Available

    The number of entry-level openings ranged from less than 10 to nearly 400 per year. The total number of employees in the firms ranged from 100 to 9,000; entry-level jobs comprise a significant portion of the total.

EMPLOYER FOCUS GROUP MEETING DESIGN

Context: The Wisconsin State Legislature passed Wisconsin Act 289 (Wisconsin Works or W-2), an act that will eliminate AFDC and offer assistance in getting jobs. It is recognized that job creation has largely taken place in suburban communities and that W-2 participants live in the inner city. Bridging the transportation gap is a critical issue in the success of the W-2 program. Employers in the Milwaukee area have been invited to discuss jobs, welfare reform, and transportation to contribute to the state's efforts to reduce barriers to work that might negatively affect W-2 program success.
Rational Objective: The purpose of the focus group meeting is to surface thoughts and feelings about the issue and dialogue about potential solutions. Experiential Objective: Participants should feel comfortable about participating in an open, honest exchange of ideas and perceptions.
OPENING OBJECTIVE

(Get Facts)
REFLECTIVE

(Emotions, Associations, and Feelings)
INTERPRETIVE

(Values and Meaning)
DECISIONAL

(Future Resolve)
CLOSING
  • Welcome
  • Meeting objectives
  • Logistics:
    • Role of moderator
    • Role of observer

What is your name, occupation?

What product does your company produce?

What is the size of your company's workforce?

Describe your company's experience hiring entry-level workers.

What is your general reaction to the W-2 program? How do you feel about it?

Do you feel the program has potential to succeed?

What do you see as the program's strong points?

What do you see as the program's weaknesses?

Discussion of barriers to work W-2 participants might face.

Do you believe that there are barriers?

How should they be addressed?

Are there things that companies can do to help W-2 succeed?

What are transportation-related issues?

How much support of expenses for transportation services should come from the private sector?

How much financial support should come from the public sector?

  • Note contributions of participants - why their participation was valuable and how the information will be used.
  • Thank participants.
  • Adjourn.

Registration, name tags, refreshments, tape recorder, presentation handouts

 

 

 

 

 

10 minutes

25 minutes

15 minutes

15 minutes

20 minutes

5 minutes

  1. Range of Skills Required

    Required skills cited most often by employers: customer service, clerical, some computer literacy, filing, data entry, basic math and reading, ability to think quickly on their feet, typing (60 words per minute), some sales experience. Only a few employers required a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma (GED). One employer commented that even college students and some graduates are not prepared for today's workplace.

  2. Turnover Rate

    The annual turnover rate varied widely among the employers, ranging from 4 percent to 75 percent. Entry-level positions accounted for most of the employers' annual turnover; 30 percent to 40 percent turnover in entry-level positions seems normal.

  3. Reasons Entry-Level Employees Were Terminated

    Poor attendance was the #1 reason for termination. Many attendance problems can be attributed to transportation issues. Attitude and lack of work ethic were also cited frequently by employers. Other reasons: poor work-readiness; lack of skills; poor performance; cultural differences; background checks; reporting false information on application. Most employers said they had "liberal" attendance policies; one employer forgave up to 24 unexcused absences per year.

  4. Reasons Employees Left Positions

    Got a better job; received more money elsewhere; didn't like the work; employees just ready to move on; issues in their personal lives, e.g., childcare, housing, etc. Although most employers said there were opportunities for advancement, the average tenure was less than 6 months.

  5. Entry-Level Wages

    Starting wages paid by the employers ranged from $6.00 to $7.50 per hour, with some as high as $10 per hour. The typical starting wage was $6.60 to $6.90 per hour. One employer's starting salary was almost $25,000 per year. Most employers had different starting wages based on the type of job. Most employers granted wage increases after a probation period, usually six months. Several noted there has been slight (market) pressure to raise starting wages, with some having done so recently.

  6. Benefits

    Most employers offered some type of (minimal) benefit package. One employer offered full benefits at 20 hours per week; two provided benefits after 30 hours of work per week. Most said they couldn't offer benefits to one group of employees without offering them to all employees. They indicated a need to find a way to standardize benefits. Most employers recognize the need to provide training, but don't like having to provide remedial education/training.

  7. Transportation

    Transportation was not usually an issue for employers in the city, since they were located on or near bus lines. Some central-city employers whose businesses required shift work found transportation to be a problem for some employees. Transportation was a problem for most suburban employers. They cited: no bus service or infrequent service in their areas; bus arrival and departure times did not coincide with their shift starting and ending times; employees have to wait outside in the elements, often for long periods of time.

    At least three employers commented that they have had periodic discussions with regional transit agencies to extend bus service to their suburban area and to alter routes or schedules, especially during the evenings and on weekends. According to the employers, the discussions have produced few positive results thus far.

    No employers provided transportation benefits to their employees, other than (free or reduced) parking or assistance with carpooling. Several have investigated the transit- and transportation-related, allowable expense deductions, but have not yet utilized them. A few indicated a willingness to pay for employees' transportation costs under certain conditions.

Opinions on Welfare Reform

  • We (society) need to have it.
  • I think it can help break the cycle of dependency.
  • It's a good program.
  • Welfare reform is not ready for itself; there are too many unresolved issues, and the fear is that many people will fall through the cracks.
  • The program lacks common sense.
  • Too many variables haven't been worked out.
  • Some people will fall through the cracks.
  • Employers can't do it all.
  • Employers are unclear about what to expect and what they should do.
  • Everyone needs to be more tolerant.
  • Recipients have a lot of problems that prevent them from keeping jobs.
  • Welfare reform is a way for some people to regain their dignity.
  • Let's hope workers don't hold the program's shortcomings (and being forced to work) against the employers.

Other Notable Comments

  • One employer encountered 12 languages while interviewing 30 applicants.
  • Employers (HR departments) now do things they never had to do before.
  • Some employers are uncomfortable with the current situation and can't find good employees, partly because of low unemployment rates.
  • Only two employers said the lack of employees has hampered their operations or future plans.
  • It's a challenge to get entry-level employees to buy into a "team" concept.

Target Population Information and Outreach

Just as program planners must understand employers' needs to create sustainable programs, the target population has a wide variety of concerns. Input from members of the target population can provide valuable insight into the transportation issues they face and their participation is required as part of the JARC planning process. As noted in Chapter 4, merely matching job locations with job seeker residences is insufficient. The transportation to work program should consider the attractiveness of wages relative to travel time and inconvenience, the skills of the target population, and the effect that availability of services such as health care and child care have on job choice.

Planners should rely on job placement agencies to provide initial information on job seekers' skills, transportation options, and difficulties in finding or keeping jobs. To gather more detailed information, planners should consider conducting a similar process to the employer interview/outreach process described above. Once again, the process is best conducted in partnership with other organizations such as job placement agencies, social service agencies, and providers of support services such as childcare or job training. The process is described below.

Job Seeker Interviews

The Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act of 1996, (National Welfare Reform), was preceded by programs in several states across the country to reduce the welfare rolls and improve access to training/education programs and public employment agencies. In many of the states where these programs were implemented, community-based outreach facilities were established to better enable affected populations to access information, in-take and screening, and work readiness and training services.

Staff at these community outreach facilities should be able to arrange introductions to target population members who are seeking employment. However, relationships between staff and clients will be stronger when the offices have a long history and are located in targeted communities.

Confidentiality will be a major concern of staff who are asked to assist a welfare-to-work transit study by arranging introductions to clients. Positive interactions between staff working in outreach programs and the clients they serve are dependent on trust and mutual respect. Staff often have invested a great deal of time to build trust and earn the respect of their clients. Staff in outreach organizations is often unwilling to (or prohibited by administrative regulations to do so) hand over a list of names, addresses, and phone numbers. Instead, they can communicate directly with their clients and ask if they would be willing to participate in an outreach program. With the consent of their clients, introductions can be arranged.

Participation Payments

Inducements are often provided to participants in market research studies. Cash stipends are appreciated and well received when working with a market that consists of target population members. Depending on the setting, it may be appropriate to provide a meal as part of an inducement package.

Providing inducements serves two majors purposes. First, they present an incentive to interview participants to show up at the appointed time. Approximately 20 percent of people who agree to participate in an interview or attend a focus group meeting will fail to honor their commitment. Without inducements, this percentage would likely be higher.

Secondly, for those who do honor their commitment, the inducement assists in creating a tone of seriousness and professionalism. Interview and focus group meeting participants are more inclined to give honest, thoughtful responses to questions when it is clear that their responses are valued and they are compensated for their time.

Cash stipends between $25 to $50 per person have been used in previous studies.

Information Gathering Formats

Two formats have been used to gather information from job seekers: One-on-one interviews and focus group meetings with up to 15 participants. The preferred format is the focus group meeting because of its efficiency and higher levels of interaction that take place during focus group meetings among the moderator and the participants. Under the control of a skilled moderator, the participants can be prodded to think outside the constraints of their day-to-day routines and address issues in unique ways.

Successful focus group meetings can include as many as 15 participants; however, 10 to 12 participants, is optimal. A skilled moderator can manage this number of participants, keeping them focused and on track, while, at the same time, allowing them to interact among themselves.

Focus group meetings are comparatively more expensive and time consuming to organize and conduct. In addition to locating a conference room for the meeting and arranging catering services for the meal, there are the labor-intensive tasks of:

  • Initially identifying at least 25 interested participants.
  • Identifying a day of the week and time of the day when at least 15 people can attend.
  • Arranging childcare services for single parents without sitters.
  • Preparing a mailing that includes:
    • A confirmation letter with date, time, place, and directions and bus route information to the meeting location; and,
    • Background information on the welfare-to-work study and focus group meeting operations and goals.
  • Conducting telephone calls one day before the focus meeting to confirm attendance.

The tasks described above are not specially designed for a market consisting of target population members. Instead, this is a standard methodology that is used in consumer/product testing and focus group meetings.

Target Population Focus Group Meetings

Whether conducting one-on-one interviews or a series of focus group meetings, the purpose for gathering information is the same: To identify issues and concerns that should be addressed to facilitate the use of transportation services. In this sense, both the interview and the focus group meeting should be designed as market research efforts that are aimed at determining:

  • Will consumers buy a particular product or service?
  • If yes, why?
  • If no, why not?

Focus group meetings are a valuable tool for gathering market/product research data and for qualitative assessment of services or products. The strength of focus group meetings in market/product research can be strengthened by considering three factors:

  1. Grouping participants with common experiences in distinct focus group meetings.
  2. The participants' understanding that there are no right or wrong answers and that it is only honest opinions (both positive and negative) about the product that are important to the testers.
  3. The focus group meeting design and process is replicable.

The planners may use a number of focus group designs. One such method is the Objective, Reflective, Interpretive, and Decisional (ORID) design method. ORID has been used to conduct the focus group meetings for welfare-to-work transit studies. The design leads participants to discuss products from four critical reference points:

  • Objective - Definitive and factual.
  • Reflective - Emotions, associations, and feelings.
  • Interpretive - Values and meanings.
  • Decisional - Future resolve (to buy or not to buy).

The outline on the following page presents a model for conducting ORID focus group meetings for welfare-to-work transit studies.

JOB SEEKER FOCUS GROUP MEETING DESIGN

Context: A large number of jobs are located in the suburbs and that W-2 participants live in the inner city. Bridging the transportation gap is a critical issue in the success of the W-2 program. W-2 participants have been invited to discuss jobs, welfare reform, and transportation to help identify ways to improve transportation services between the city and places of employment.
Rational Objective: The purpose of the focus group meeting is to surface thoughts and feelings about the issues and dialogue about potential solutions. Experiential Objective: Participants should feel comfortable about participating in an open, honest exchange of ideas and perceptions.
OPENING OBJECTIVE

(Get Facts)
REFLECTIVE

(Emotions, Associations, and Feelings)
INTERPRETIVE

(Values and Meaning)
DECISIONAL

(Future Resolve)
CLOSING
  • Welcome
  • Meeting objectives
  • Logistics:
    • Role of moderator
    • Role of observer

What is your name? Where do you live? For how long?

Have you found employment through the W-2 Program? Have you enrolled in a training or education program?

Where is your job or education program?

How do you usually travel around the city? Car, bus, taxi?

How will you travel to your job or education program?

What is your general reaction to the W-2 program? How do you feel about it?

Do you feel the program has potential to succeed? Why? Why not?

What do you see as the pro-gram's strong points? What do you see as the program's weaknesses? Is transportation going to be an issue for you?

What kinds of experiences have you had riding the bus?

What kinds of experiences have you had in the suburbs?

Discussion of barriers to work W-2 participants might face. Do you be-lieve there are solutions to the barriers? How should they be addressed?

How do you feel about riding the bus to work in the suburbs when you live in the city?

What are your concerns about traveling to work? Bus fare, travel time, emergency travel needs?

Are wages paid in the suburbs high enough to offset costs of transit?

Yes or no, would you ride the bus to work in a suburban location? Why or why not?

Are there things that can be done to make riding the bus more attractive?

Is it the responsibility of companies to help meet inner-city workers' transportation needs? What should companies do? Is it the responsibility of the government? What should government do?

  • Note contributions of participants - why their participation was valuable and how the information will be used.

  • Thank participants.

  • Pay stipends

  • Adjourn.

Registration, name tags, refreshments, tape recorder, presentation handouts

 

 

 

 

 

10 minutes 15 minutes 25 minutes 15 minutes 20 minutes 5 minutes

General Findings

In interviews and focus group meetings, people moving from welfare-to-work have indicated that they are very aware of the transportation-related costs they will incur pursuing jobs in suburban communities. Those costs are identified in both time (excessive travel time and inconvenience) and money. From the perspective of the job seekers, these issues could be addressed by:

  1. Providing direct transit routes, without the need for transfers, between home and the job site or a central location (e.g. downtown) and the job site. It was felt that the employers should contribute to the costs of providing these routes.
  2. Upwardly adjust wages paid by suburban-based employers to account for time spent traveling to/from work. In some cases, two-way travel time on the bus could account for four hours or more.

Another concern was travel home from work in the event of an emergency. Focus group members felt that, at a minimum, employers could guarantee a ride home when there is an emergency.


Final Report
May 2001