Job Coaching

The Basic Idea:

  • Provide individuals with one-on-one coaching – before and after they get a job – to help them meet employers’ expectations.

How it works:

  • The Job Coach assesses the worker’s basic skills and helps address any skill deficit that reduces employability, especially by helping the worker learn appropriate workplace behavior and communications skills, and by helping the worker understand employer expectations, such as arriving at work on time.
  • After the worker gets a job, the Job Coach checks in with the employer to identify any concerns about the worker’s skills or behaviors, then helps the worker address them.
  • The Job Coach also helps workers address issues in their family life that can interfere with employment, such as finding reliable and appropriate child care and transportation.

Who Does It:

  • Many nonprofits that provide these services to people with disabilities have branched out to serve low-income workers, using funds made available after the overhaul of the welfare system in 1996.
  • Some newer nonprofits doing this work sprang up after the welfare system was reformed in the late 1980s – to help people with the required transition from welfare to work.


  • This is one of the most effective models for the “hardest to serve.”
  • Organizations that help people with disabilities with job development exist in most areas, and might be readily tapped to adapt their services to serve people who need basic skill training.
  • Public dollars might be available to help with funding
  • Volunteers—for example, retirees from related businesses—might help as coaches.


  • This is more expensive than some other approaches because it requires a lot of staff time for the intensive one-on-one work. (But note the idea of using volunteers in the “Pros” columns.)

Simplicity Index

  • Easy Win. If your rural area has an organization that is already doing this work with disabled adults, it might easily broaden its work to serve low-income workers. An expanded effort can sometimes be funded with money from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF/welfare) targeting “the hardest to serve.”

Quilt It

  • Earn It: Coaches might also refer workers to good child care and transportation options.
  • Keep It: Coaches can add some financial and tax filing education and content to their sessions.

Examples and Resources

People Inc. (Abingdon, VA). This community action agency serves a primarily low-income population in mining country of southwestern Virginia. It provides assessments of worker’s existing skills, helps them develop new skills needed to make them employable, and offers on-site job coaching

Product Alternatives (Fergus Falls, MN). This nonprofit started as a disabilities services organization, but has contracted with rural counties to provide job coaching for families making the welfare-to-work transition.

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RuFES is a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group.
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