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Survival Skills

Welfare to Work in Los Angeles

January 1, 1998 / By Mark Drayse, Cher-Amie Inocentes, Daniel Flaming and Peter Force
Underwriter: Economic Roundtable

Recent welfare reform legislation mandates that aid recipients become employed and economically self-sufficient. The allowable interval of continuous assistance is limited to 24 months for current recipients and 18 months for new recipients, with a lifetime limit of five years on welfare. At least 150,000 current welfare recipients in Los Angeles County must move into the workforce, securing at least partial employment by December 1999. To the extent that they work but do not earn enough to get off welfare, this time counts against their five-year lifetime limit for aid benefits.

Individuals attempting to move from welfare to work, and agencies supporting that transition, can benefit from detailed labor market information about promising entry-level occupations available in Los Angeles County. This Report offers a comprehensive screening of all potential entry-level occupations to identify those that provide wages above the poverty level, and require skills that can be acquired within two years. Skill requirements for these occupations are identified and compared to skills held by the majority of welfare recipients to assess opportunities for successful employment.


  • Forty-eight promising occupations are identified and described in detail. They were selected based on skill and ability requirements, requisite skill levels, average wages, and job availability in Los Angeles County during the next five years.
  • Within these promising entry-level jobs, 145,000 openings are projected for Los Angeles County over the next five years. Although this number is encouraging, there may be as many as 5.4 unemployed job seekers (unemployed and discouraged workers, and welfare workers) for each new job opening.
  • The most important skills for securing a promising job include: communications (speaking, writing, listening, etc.), information (gathering, organizing, documenting), and social relationships (social perceptiveness, working with the public, etc.).
  • Fifty-five problematic entry-level occupations were also identified. These are jobs that would be unlikely to provide long-term economic stability, because of typically low wages and greater competition for each opening. Many welfare recipients in Los Angeles County have previously held these jobs, which are likely to be dead-end options for individuals seeking long-term economic stability.
  • An average of about 48,000 jobs in these problematic, entry-level occupations are projected to open each year in Los Angeles County. Because they are lower-skilled there is more competition for them, which in turn suppresses wages. For every two of these jobs that open, three job seekers apply through California’s EDD offices looking for work, and many other workers compete by going directly to employers.
  • Typical welfare recipients (female, with two or more children, lacking basic and job-specific skills, and access to a car) face significant challenges in securing the most promising jobs, because of their current skill deficits. Most will need to take additional training to secure an entry-level job that promises economic stability.


  • Education and training should be a top priority for welfare recipients. A high school diploma is essential for most living-wage jobs (54 percent of current welfare recipients lack a high school diploma).
  • For most welfare recipients, additional training is recommended in basic skills required for securing one of the forty-eight most promising occupations. Many of the most promising occupations require similar basic skills in language, information-handling and social relations. These skills should be targeted by adult education schools and community colleges in classes that are accessible to those seeking to leave welfare.
  • Community agencies such as adult schools and community colleges should play crucial roles in providing career counseling to those seeking to move off welfare. Candidates should be helped in assessing skills, aptitudes and interests to identify promising occupations that best match their own abilities.
  • Schools, colleges, job training programs, and welfare case workers should promote awareness of the most promising occupations for providing long-term economic stability and should refer welfare-to-work candidates to appropriate career counseling and training. Candidates should also be warned about the pitfalls of problematic, lower-skilled, entry-level occupations.
  • Because there is a significant projected shortfall of the most promising, entry-level jobs over the next five years, additional jobs must be generated, especially in the inner city. Training and education in the basics of marketing, customer service, and bookkeeping can support entrepreneurship and are also transferable to many promising, entry-level occupations.

Chapter Headings:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Ports of Entry Into the World of Work
  3. Promising and Problematic Occupations
  4. Overview of Skills for Promising Occupations
  5. Promising Professional and Technical Occupations
  6. Promising Sales Occupations
  7. Promising Clerical and Administrative Support
  8. Occupations
  9. Promising Service Occupations
  10. Promising Production Occupations
  11. Summary and Recommendations
Area of Work: People
Tags: Aid Recipients, Barriers, California, Decline, Earnings, Economy, Education, Employment, GAIN, Income, Job Loss, Job Quality, Jobs, Labor Market, Los Angeles County, Occupation, Opportunities, Planning, Poverty, Problematic Occupations, Promising Occupations, Public Assistance, Screening, Skills, Strategy, Training, Wages, Welfare to Work, Work, Work Readiness