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An HR Glossary for HR Terms

Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms

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Transitional Employment

What Is Transitional Employment?

Transitional employment is a strategy that places individuals in temporary jobs with the goal of preparing them for permanent job placement. 

Transitional employment is offered to unemployed or underemployed individuals who need help integrating back into the workforce. These individuals can include:  

  • People who were out of the workforce due to illness or disability

  • People who left their job due to workplace injury 

  • People employed part-time who seek full-time employment 

  • People who are employed, but their current wages are not sufficient compared to their previous job wages 

  • People who have been unemployed for a long period of time and have experienced barriers to employment

  • People who were formerly incarcerated

  • People who have low income or receive assistance through a federal program such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Transitional employment generally lasts between 3 and 12 months. After their time has ended, they have the opportunity to get hired full-time or move onto another transitional role where they can continue to enhance their skills. 

Transitional Job Examples

The temporary jobs in transitional employment aim to advance a person’s skills and acclimate them into the workforce. Employers must ensure transitional jobs abide by employee physical and health restrictions. These jobs, often referred to as light-duty jobs, will vary depending on the industry.

For example, transitional jobs in the transportation industry might include: 

  • Inspecting buses and bus equipment 

  • Sorting invoices 

  • Updating safety manuals 

  • Cleaning buses 

  • Training new hires

Transitional jobs in the healthcare industry might involve: 

  • Answering phones in reception 

  • Being an activity aid for patients

  • Cleaning rooms and safety equipment 

  • Filing medical records and other documents

  • Bathing independent patients/residents

What Is the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)?

The WIOA is U.S. legislation that allows local boards to provide transitional employment opportunities. It specifically helps: 

  • Americans (this includes youth and adults) gain access to high-quality jobs and careers

  • Employers/businesses hire and retain skilled workers

The U.S. Departments of Labor (DOL), Education (ED), and Health and Human Services (HHS) work together to provide resources that aim to accomplish the WIOA’s goals listed above. 

These resources include interactive online learning platforms that offer the latest technical assistance and job training tools. For more information on these resources, visit WorkforceGPS. This is WIOA’s partner site that offers individuals the tools they need to prepare for employment.

Who Is Eligible for Transitional Employment? 

To be eligible for transitional employment, an individual must: 

  • Be enrolled in the WIOA Adult or Dislocated Worker program 

  • Have a completed Individual Employment Plan (IEP) from the WIOA

  • Provide medical documentation that outlines work restrictions and expected duration of these restrictions (this only applies if the person has been unemployed due to medical reasons or has undergone a workplace injury)

Transitional employment eligibility criterias vary across counties and organizations. Please speak with your county or HR department for specific requirements. 

How Do Employers Benefit from Hiring Workers in Transitional Jobs? 

Transitional job programs have been shown to increase business productivity, revenue, and customer satisfaction for the following reasons:  

  • Access to a qualified workforce. Employers have the opportunity to hire a transitional employee full-time when the transitional employment period has concluded. As a result, hiring managers do not need to invest as much time and money into the recruitment process. They can simply turn to their transitional employees and see if they would be a good fit.

  • Opportunity to train and mentor transitional employees. When teams provide mentoring opportunities, this enhances morale, work culture, and employee retention. Moreover, businesses can have the chance to become a community partner by helping stabilize their local economy.

  • Reduction in workers’ comp spending. Transition employment gives employers the opportunity to engage in a return-to-work process. They can take a hands-on approach in helping their employees heal, return to work faster, and reduce overall workers’ comp spending. 

Transitional Employment vs. Supported Employment

While transitional employment looks after unemployed or underemployed individuals, supported employment specifically helps those with severe disabilities. 

These disabilities include intellectual disabilities, mental illness, and traumatic brain injury. Those who qualify for supported employment require the assistance of mentors or job coaches to help them perform their work.

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