As some of you may know, Tulsa Initiative has spent much of the past year exploring the feasibility of offering high-quality employment and training services to CAP families. These types of programs can get pretty expensive prety quickly, and thus there’s been a longstanding debate on the cost-effectiveness of “jobs” programs (see this article by our friend Chris King).
Emerging evidence is showing that new workforce models that combine certain essential elements show great promise. Public/Private Ventures has just released a research brief examining the characteristics and outcomes of three successful workforce programs around the country. Over the 24-month period, they find that participants:
- increased earnings by 18.3 percent over a control group, with employed participants earning $3,300 more than controls,
- worked 1.3 more months than the control,
- were 11 percentage points more likely to work all 12 months in the second year,
- and worked in jobs that offered benefits (paid sick leave, vacation, health insurance) for 1.5 months longer.
Eight and sixteen seem to be the magic numbers here. Significant effects on earnings and probability of employment first emerge after eight months, once many participants have completed the program, and widen over time after that. At sixteen months, differences between employed participants and employed controls first become significant. This indicates that services first improve initial employability and job security and, over time, lead participants to better jobs that pay more and offer benefits when compared to a control group. Thus, funders need to remember 8 and 16 when demanding results from workforce programs.
So what is it about these programs that make them more successful than earlier workforce models? P/PV identifies five key characteristics:
- A sector focus: an organizational “focus on an industry or small set of industries” with “industry-specific expertise and relationships that support their training programs’ design.” Strong employer partnerships, either one-on-one or through industry associations, helped programs identify opportunities that would benefit their clients while also filling real workforce gaps for employers.
- Career matching: “recruitment, screening and intake processes [are] aimed at making appropriate career matches for participants,” including interests, aptitudes, and “occupation-specific requirements, such as driver’s licenses.”
- Integrated skills training: programs offer not just “job-specific training” but also skills that promote employability (timeliness, cleanliness, professional behavior, etc.), basic English and math skills, and job seeking skills (writing resumes, job searching, interviewing, etc.). Training may be provided directly or through partner agencies.
- Individualized support services: participants receive “social supports, such as childcare, transportation, housing, and financial assistance,” that help eliminate barriers to successful program completion. These services may be provided directly or through partner agencies.
- Flexibility: programs’ “close connection to industry needs led them to shift either occupational or industry focus or to make changes to their curriculum.” Strong industry-partnerships made this responsiveness possible.