Presents findings from a 2016 national scan of research and evaluation capacity in state workforce agencies and site visits to two states with significant capacity (Ohio and Washington); and identifies strategies to boost research and evaluation capabilities.

This report presents findings from a 2016 “national scan to collect information on…research and evaluation capacity in state workforce agencies” (p.8). “The effort also included site visits to two states (Ohio and Washington) with substantial workforce research and evaluation capacity. The goals [of the analysis] are (1) to understand the capacity in the state agencies, (2) to help agencies learn from other agencies’ experiences and practices, and (3) to identify other mechanisms likely to enhance research and evaluation at the state level, and cross-state efforts, aligned with new federal workforce development legislation” (p.8).

“State workforce agencies report policymakers in their states are asking important questions that workforce agency research and evaluations could help answer. However,…many agencies lack the staff capacity and funding to implement a robust research agenda. Ohio and Washington are among the minority of agencies with significant workforce research and evaluation activity, backed by longitudinal administrative data sets. Although their models differ, both states have achieved substantial research accomplishments based on a long history of using evidence to support policy development, critical funding support, buy-in from agency heads and state leaders, and access to well-led, high-capacity research units” (p.8).

“[The authors] asked the agencies to list the most pressing workforce development research questions their states are facing. The agency responses, documented in the report, include some questions related to improving program administration and understanding customers and their barriers, but are heavily weighted toward: (1) understanding labor markets, (2) measuring program performance and outcomes, and (3) measuring program impacts and effectiveness” (p.8).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Full publication title: Evidence-Building Capacity in State Workforce Agencies: Insights from a National Scan and Two State Site Visits

Major Findings & Recommendations

“Of the forty-one state workforce agencies participating in the national scan, all but one reports there is demand…for the kinds of information workforce research and evaluations can yield….Findings on staff capacity and funding…research and evaluation activity, and research and evaluation methods used…were less encouraging. Evidence-building capacity varies tremendously by state, and, while some states published a large number of research products, half the states reported producing three or fewer in-house research and evaluation studies…from 2011 through 2015” (p.8-9). ● “Twenty percent of the agencies report their staff capacity is ‘inadequate;’ ● Forty-four percent report capacity is ‘fair;’ ● Twenty-nine percent report…capacity is ‘adequate’” (p.9); ● “Three agencies report they have zero research staff; ● A quarter of the agencies report less than 1 full time employee (FTE) staff; and ● Half the agencies report 2 or less FTE staff” (p.9). “Common factors contributing to the substantial workforce research activity evident in Ohio and Washington are listed below.” ● “A history and culture in the government of using workforce research to inform policy and practice; ● [Workforce Data Quality Initiative] and State Longitudinal Data Systems…grants…seeded the development of the data infrastructure…” (p. 11); ● “Development of a cross-agency longitudinal administrative data set covering a range of public programs and including Unemployment Insurance wage record data; ● A long history of sharing data between the state workforce development and education agencies; ● A neutral entity to collect data across agencies and govern the longitudinal administrative data set; ● The neutral entity governing the longitudinal data set employs staff with great knowledge of the individual agency data sets” (p.11); ● “Data governance, data access procedures, and security standards have been addressed and maintained as a high priority; ● Buy-in, leadership and support from the office of the governor and agency heads; ● Strategies to develop and maintain trust and information sharing among state agencies and their staff; ● Data and research staff work environments that are mission-driven, collegial, and allow research staff room to innovate; and ● Objective research products, produced in a politically-neutral environment, upon which policymakers can rely for information to inform decisions” (p.11). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)