"Welfare-to-work": An analysis of the communication competencies taught in a job training program serving an urban poverty area

Vincent Waldron, Melissa Lavitt, Margaret McConnauehy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Politicians and state-level welfare administrators touting new "welfare-to-work" programs apparently believe that the acquisition of communication skills is an antidote to welfare dependence. Regrettably, communication scholars have largely excluded themselves from discussions about the content, form, and ethical implications of the training provided in these programs. This essay reports partial results of a year-long study of a job training program serving mostly indigent clients. The communication competencies taught explicitly and implicitly in the curriculum and the unmet communication needs of clients were the focus of investigation. The study found that of the twenty K-12 communication standards distributed by the National Communication Association (1998), 18 were incorporated in the curriculum. Fundamental elements of the communication process (e.g., feedback), listening skills, and interview competencies were most emphasized. Media literacy skills were least emphasized. Interviews with clients revealed a number of unmet communication needs. These included (1) development of post-employment social support skills and networks, (2) conflict management training, (3) on-the-job communication competencies, and (4) development of realistic employment expectations. Communication educators are urged to contribute to the development of job training curricula and invited to critique the ideological assumptions embedded in them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-33
Number of pages19
JournalCommunication Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2001


  • Communication competence
  • Communication skill
  • Job training
  • Welfare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics


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