The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs Gold Standard Evaluation study's objective was to examine the impact of the Adult and Dislocated worker programs on training, employment, earnings, and service receipt after 15 months. This U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration funded randomized controlled trial was conducted from 2011-2013.

This report presents the study’s findings on the effectiveness of WIA-funded, staff-assisted employment services that are classified as intensive services, and WIA-funded training, both separately and together. From November 2011 to April 2013, more than 34,000 job seekers at more than 200 American Job Centers in 28 randomly-selected local workforce areas were randomly assigned to three different sets of services. Because the local workforce areas were selected randomly, the findings can be generalized to job seekers served by the programs nationwide. This report presents the study’s findings on the effectiveness of WIA-funded, staff-assisted employment services that are classified as intensive services, and WIA-funded training, both separately and together. The effectiveness of these services is measured relative to “core services” available to everyone at American Job Centers and other services in the community. The report presents the estimated impacts of the services based on customers’ experiences during the 30 months after they enrolled in the study. The report builds upon an earlier report (McConnell et al. 2016) that discussed estimated impacts in the first 15 months after customers enrolled in the study, as well as an implementation study conducted alongside the impact evaluation (D’Amico et al. 2015).

The key highlights are as follows:

  1. The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Adult and Dislocated Worker programs on training, employment, earnings, and service receipt after 15 months. This summary focuses on the comparison between the group who received core-and-intensive services versus the group who received core services.
  2. The study was a randomized controlled trial, where customers in each local area were randomly assigned to one of three groups: full-WIA, core-and-intensive, or core. The authors compared the outcomes between the groups from baseline to 15 months after random assignment.
  3. The study found that core-and-intensive customers were significantly more likely than core customers to complete a training program, receive a training credential, and have higher earnings.
  4. The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that any estimated effects are attributable to the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs and not to other factors.

Major Findings & Recommendations

Data sources included a study registration form, a survey conducted 15 months after random assignment, WIA Standardized Record Data, and financial data from the local areas. The authors used weighted statistical models and t-tests to compare service receipt, employment, earnings, and training outcomes across the three groups. The following were the findings from the study:

Employment: The study found no statistically significant differences between core-and-intensive customers and core customers in employment or hours worked 15 months after random assignment.

Earnings: The study found that core-and-intensive customers earned $600 more than core customers 15 months after random assignment, which was statistically significant.

Education and Training: The study found that 15 months after random assignment, core-and-intensive customers were significantly more likely than core customers to complete a training program (18% versus 15%) and receive a training credential (15% versus 11%). There were no statistically significant relationships between the groups and the likelihood to complete an educational program, receive a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certificate, or to receive a postsecondary degree.

Public Benefit Receipt: The study found no statistically significant differences between core-and-intensive customers and core customers in receipt of cash assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) services 15 months after random assignment.

Though not conclusive, the evidence suggests that training funded by the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs does not have positive impacts in the 30 months after study enrollment. The study authors noted however that the programs’ impacts may be understated since customers were allowed to access other community-based employment and training services during the study. Take up of other services in the community might have contributed to the null findings for some outcomes. The authors also noted that random assignment rates for core-and-intensive and core groups were lower than full-WIA since programs did not want to deny services to a large proportion of customers. As a result, the authors administered the 15-month follow-up survey to a random sample of the full-WIA group