Help for People On Welfare In
Finding a Federal Job?
Dear Federal Jobs Advisor:
Right now I am on welfare in Massachusetts. Also I am currently receiving food
stamps. My dream is to have a Federal job. Do I have to take a test? Is there a
program to help me. Unfortunately, I am not good at tests.
J.J., Trenton, NJ
Dear Welfare Recipient
Thousands of people on welfare have been hired, permanent and temporary, into
Federal service, since the start of the Federal Welfare-To-Work program in 1997.
The Federal government is very proud of its record in hiring people off the
welfare rolls. You’ll be happy to hear this program is non-competitive meaning
that your score on the clerical exam is not an obstacle to being hired. You can
be hired even though you do not have a score that is higher than others who took
the exam. However, competition for these jobs with other candidates on welfare
is still keen.
Here are a number of programs you might be able to use.
Welfare To Work Program
The first is the Welfare to Work Program. This program serves job candidates
with little or no qualifications. Under this program, employees are hired at the
entry level, that is, GS-1 or WG-1 and WG-2 levels. They are required to perform
These tasks provide employees with the opportunity to learn good habits in the
world of work and to learn marketable skills. Workers employed under this
program are assigned a mentor to guide them, are given on-the-job as well as
formal training, and one-on-one assistance.
Re-Take The Exam
If you succeed in being hired under the Welfare To Work Program and receive
training, you will then be able to re-take the exam. You should be able to score
hirer, perhaps, as high as 80 or 85. Those who score above 85 are being hired at
GS-3 and 4. No exam is required at GS-5. Previous experience qualifies these
To date, most Agencies and Departments have welfare to work plans and have
identified positions suitable to individuals currently on the welfare roles. By
far the Department of Defense is the leader in hiring for these positions. Not
far behind is the Department of the Treasury. Also making a strong showing are
the Departments of Commerce and Veterans Affairs.
Other Programs That Might Help
In addition to the program known formally as Welfare To Work, another major
avenue of hiring you might want to look into is the Worker Trainee Program. This
program addresses the employment needs of unskilled workers who may or may not
be on welfare, with jobs at the GS-1, or WG-1 and WG-2 levels. After three years
of satisfactory service and job performance under this program, these employees
are converted to career appointments. By then these workers have received formal
and on-the-job training to provide them with more marketable skills to advance
in the Federal system. The Worker Trainee Program has its origins in the Worker
Trainee Opportunity Program, established in 1968, for the hard core unemployed.
Other appointing authorities being used to help people on welfare enter the
world of work are Veterans Readjustment Appointments (VRA), Student Educational
Employment Program. Special appointments are also given to severely disabled and
mentally retarded people. Welfare clients or others who believe they may qualify
under one or more of these programs may request consideration under the program
when inquiring about employment with any Federal Agency. More appears below on
how to go about approaching Agencies.
While these programs may be helpful in specific circumstances, the majority of
current welfare clients who are getting into the Federal government do so
through the Worker Trainee Appointing Authority. It provides immediate hiring
opportunities for the largest number of job candidates with minimal
Some of the categories of positions in the programs described above are
General Clerk; Mail and File Clerk; Customer Service Representative; Test
Administrator; Custodial Worker; Laborer; and Maintenance Mechanic.
Take It A Step At A Time
A good place to begin the process of finding a job is the phone book as
antiquated as that may sound. All phone books have a section called, “Federal
Government” in the blue pages at the back of the book. Locate Agencies that are
within your commuting distance will be listed there. Call or visit these
Agencies. At first we suggest calling the Public Affairs Office at each Agency.
Ask the person answering to send you the Agency’s brochure, because you are
interested in learning more about the Agency. If the Agency has no brochure,
study their internet site. Study the brochure or website so that you can speak
with some knowledge about the kind of work that the Agency does. Agencies
appreciate job candidates who have knowledge of their mission.
Next call the Agency’s Personnel Office and ask to speak to the person who is in
charge of the Welfare to Work Program or one of the other program described
above. Tell this person that you have an interest in the Agency and the work
that the Agency does. Ask to have an application package sent to you. Ask also
if the Agency provides individual assistance to welfare candidates to help in
completing the application process. If you are unsuccessfully in getting through
on the phone, send a letter.
This is how you should start. Let’s hope it leads to a job for you.
Here is a website where you can learn more about the Welfare To Work program:
Welfare to Work
To submit questions to the Federal Jobs Advisor, write to: Federal Jobs
Advisor, Federal Jobs Digest, 1503 Radcliff Court, Newtown Square PA 19073. We
regret that not all questions may be answered. •