The Pathways Out of Poverty grant initiative funded training to prepare individuals for employment in green industries, such as energy efficiency and renewable energy; and the Health Care and Other High Growth and Emerging Industries grant initiative focused on providing training in healthcare and other high-growth fields. DOL sponsored a single rigorous evaluation of selected grantees of these two job training initiatives. The impact evaluation reported on here used a random assignment design, which is widely considered to be the strongest method for determining whether a program makes a difference in the earnings and other outcomes of program participants. Four grantees from the two grant initiatives were purposively selected for evaluation based on their program design and scale. Conducted by Abt Associates and its partner Mathematica Policy Research, the evaluation separately examines the impacts for each selected grantee program with the American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center, Grand Rapids Community College, Kern Community College District (KCCD) and North Central Texas College. The goals of this report are to: (1) document the impact of each of the four grant-funded programs on participation in training and receipt of credentials over an 18-month follow-up period; (2) determine the extent to which access to these services resulted in impacts on participants’ employment and earnings, household income, public benefit receipt, and other outcomes over the same period; and (3) discuss the implications of the results for policymakers and program operators. The report also summarizes findings from an examination of program implementation, described more fully in a separate evaluation report.
Major Findings & Recommendations
There is a great deal of interest at the federal, state, and local levels in developing effective training strategies, such as career pathways that result in employer- or industry-recognized credentials or degrees, to improve the employment prospects and subsequent earnings of unemployed individuals and other individuals with barriers to work. As summarized in the report as exhibit 7.1, this evaluation found that, over the 18 month follow-up period, the four programs in the study produced impacts on participation in vocational training and the receipt of credentials. However, only the program at KCCD produced evidence of an impact on cumulative earnings during the fifth and sixth calendar quarters after random assignment—the time period on which the evaluation focused on assessing post-training effects. In addition, there is some evidence the impacts at KCCD do not continue over a longer follow-up period. Finally, there were no detectable impacts on other employment-related outcomes such as household income or public benefits receipt. Several implications can be drawn from these results: -Funding for short-term training programs can significantly raise both participation levels in training and receipt of vocational credentials among unemployed individuals and those with work barriers. -Consideration should be given to targeting training resources to populations not typically served by available training services, or in areas where training is unavailable or oversubscribed. -Although the study cannot determine the specific KCCD program services that produced the earnings impact observed there, this program included a structured sequence of training courses and a strong role for instructors in all aspects of service delivery. -A more substantial investment in developing job-related skills might be needed to increase the employment and earnings of disadvantaged populations. -When developing training initiatives, consideration should be given to the wages for positions resulting from the training. -Attention should be given to strategies for connecting training to employment, potentially through strong connections to employers. -Financial assistance to attend training programs appears to be important for promoting engagement in the training activities.