Staff Assistance Shown to Help People Find Jobs, Earn More: Findings from a National Study of the Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs

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businessmen-42691_640The National Association of Workforce Development Professionals is the premier association for workforce professionals across this country. This article appeared in their January 2017 newsletter.

By Kenneth Fortson 
January 2017 • Volume 30 • No. 1
NAWDP Advantage • nawdp.org

A rigorous national evaluation of services provided through the Workforce Investment Act Adult and Dislocated Worker programs found that intensive services- staff assistance with finding and keeping a job – not only helped people find a job, but also led to higher earnings.

The Adult and Dislocated Worker programs are two of the largest programs serving job seekers in the United States, reaching 8 million people at a combined annual cost of $2 billion, but their effects on employment and earnings had not been rigorously tested. To assess the effectiveness of these programs, the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (ETA) sponsored the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs Gold Standard Evaluation. Mathematica Policy Research and its partners at Social Policy Research Associates, MDRC, and the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce are conducting the evaluation.

The evaluation used a randomized controlled trial to rigorously estimate the effects of intensive services and training provided by the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs. It estimated the effectiveness of intensive services and training relative to basic services available in the public workforce system. The evaluation drew study participants from more than 200 American Job Centers in 28 randomly selected local workforce investment areas across the United States. Because the local areas were selected randomly, the evaluation findings can be generalized to all local areas nationwide. Leadership and staff of the 28 randomly selected local areas worked closely with the .national evaluation team t? 1mplement the study. Although the evaluation was implemented under WIA, its findings are still relevant under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) passed in 2014. WIOA made important changes to the workforce system, but job seekers continue to receive similar services through the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs.

ETA released the first impact report for the evaluation, which examined the effects of training and intensive services – primarily staff assistance – on earnings after 15 months. A second impact report will examine the effects on employment and earnings after 30 months. Key findings from the first impact report include:

  • Intensive services provided through the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs can increase earnings. Job seekers who had access to intensive services earned nearly $600 more -a 17 percent increase -in the final 3 months of the evaluation’s 15-month interim reporting period than did those who had no access to intensive services. Those with access to intensive services also had higher employment rates and their jobs were more likely to offer fringe benefits such as health insurance and retirement benefits.
  • Access to training through the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs did not increase earnings in the 15-month follow-up period, but it is too soon to assess whether training was effective. It was expected that training would not increase earnings in the short-term because people in training have less time to work. If training is effective, we expect the positive effects to emerge later. A second impact report will focus on the 30 months after job seekers enroll in the study.

Those interested in reading the full report, “Providing Public Workforce Services to Job Seekers: 15-Month Impact Findings on the WIA Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs,” can download it at https://wdr.doleta.gov/ research/.

This is part 1 of a 2-part series. The second part will appear in the February issue of the NAWDP Advantage.

Kenneth Fortson is an associate director of Human Services research at Mathematica Policy Research, and can be reached at kfortson@mathematica-mpr.com.

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