Off Welfare...Now What?": Part II, Phase 2:...

Provincial government representatives have claimed that since the introduction of job training programs five years ago, statistics show that fewer people are on the welfare rolls, evidence that the initiative is working. However, members of the Saskatoon Anti-Poverty Coalition, a group of concerned citizens and organizations dedicated to addressing the root causes and effects of poverty, disagree. They state that there is no evidence to support the conclusion that job training programs have had a positive impact on those who have participated. To counter the government assessment, Carmen Dyck led a multi-staged research project to better understand the effects of job training programs. The first stage, summarized in "Off Welfare ... Now What?": A Literature Review on the Impact of Provincial Welfare to Work Training Programs in Saskatchewan, established both the arguments for and criticisms of work training programs through a study of primary and secondary literature. The next stage is explained in "Off Welfare ... Now What?": Phase II, Part 2: Analysis, an exploration of what taking part in Saskatchewan's public job training programs has meant for participants. The results demonstrate quite clearly that the job opportunities and standard of living of participants fail to support the conclusions of the programs' proponents.

The methodology for the project's second stage consisted of two inter-related components. The first involved interviewing twenty-five people who had participated in either the Department of Community Resources and Employment's (DCRE) Jobs First or Transitional Employment programs. These interviews collected the participants' demographic information, personal experiences with DCRE and the job training programs, barriers to finding work, and well-being since enrolling in the programs. Interviewees were diverse in terms of racial background, residence (i.e. urban or rural), marital/household status, and education level. Originally, the plan was to gather the interviewees into a single focus group to expand on themes raised in the interviews. For a number of reasons, however, this proved to be impossible, and so it was decided to have Coalition members and other interested individuals familiarize themselves with the interviews and conduct a day-long discussion in their stead.

In the course of the group discussion, a number of dominant themes emerged, most notably a condition that they labeled "the beaver dam" (a seemingly hopeless knot of problems that compounded stress and difficulties), becoming "casualties of war" (a cycle of moving to and from low wage employment and social assistance), and bureaucratic disentitlement, in which the processes of seeking assistance proves overwhelmingly disheartening due to a maze of paperwork and unhelpful case workers. The group discussion also contrasted some of the myths associated with job training to interviewees' actual experiences, and concluded with an exploration of interviewees' well-being since participating in job training programs. The overall theme was that while job training programs provide certain skills and education, they have neither significantly improved their participants' chances at finding work that provides a living wage nor broken the cycle of poverty and dependency

Dyck, Carmen. (2005). Off Welfare...Now What?": Part II, Phase 2: Analysis. Saskatoon: Community-University Institute for Social Research.