Job Training Participants Have Little Access to Supportive Services, Research Review Finds

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New IWPR report finds services such as child care and transportation subsidies are associated with positive job training outcomes, yet the demand for these services exceeds their availability

New report on job training success

Supportive services, such as child care and transportation subsidies, can help job training participants succeed in programs that lead to good jobs.

According to a new report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), supportive services for those in job training are needed to improve access to programs and completion, but these services are rare. The report, Supportive Services in Job Training: A Research Review, summarizes existing research and 25 expert interviews to discuss the availability of supports, like child care and transportation, and their effects on job training and education program outcomes.

The report finds that many individuals in training and education programs, especially those with caregiving responsibilities, face obstacles that supportive services could address, including the need to care for young children, and the need for transportation, housing, and cash assistance.

“Individuals in job training programs are working toward a brighter future, yet many of them face life challenges that threaten to stall their progress,” said IWPR Associate Director of Research Cynthia Hess, Ph.D. “Supportive services, such as child care and transportation subsidies, can help participants succeed in programs that lead to good jobs.”

Completion Rates Need to Improve

  •     A Social Policy Research Associates study finds that about one-third of adults who participated in Workforce Investment Act training did not finish the program.
  •     IWPR research finds that among all first-time, beginning students enrolled in certificate programs at postsecondary institutions in 2003–2004, over one-third (36 percent) left the programs without a credential or degree within six years. Single parents of dependent children had especially low certificate attainment rates.

Supportive Services May Improve Outcomes

  •     A Mathematica study of women who participated in Workforce Investment Act-funded programs found that 78 percent of adults who received supportive services were employed within one year after the program, compared with 73 percent who received no supportive services. Women who received these services earned, on average, $389 more per quarter than those who did not.
  •     A Public/Private Ventures study of nine sectoral job training programs suggests that the comparatively high completion rates of one program, Project Quest, may well be related to its unusually strong system of supportive services.

Supportive Services Are Needed but Rare

  •     Experts interviewed by IWPR identified transportation and child care as two of the most important unmet service needs among job training participants. In an evaluation of Single Stop USA’s Community College Initiative, multiple site coordinators identified transportation needs as especially acute for their students.
  •     Among low-income women in the Mathematica study (mentioned above), only 22 percent received supportive services of any kind.
  •     A Workforce Benchmarking Network survey of 259 job training programs found that 48 percent provided transportation assistance to at least half of their participants. Six percent gave assistance with child care expenses to a majority of participants.

Programs Could Utilize More Existing Funding

  •     Experts interviewed said more programs could use funds from the SNAP Employment & Training program (SNAP E&T), which has uncapped federal grants that reimburse states for up to half of certain program costs, including supportive services.
  •      More states could allow education and training to count as a work activity under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, and create incentives for case workers to make education and training referrals, which would help low-income students obtain supports.

The report recommends new research to better understand the landscape of supportive services in job training, leverage public funding for these services, and improve service delivery by implementing promising practices from successful programs.

“Businesses are looking for qualified workers to fill skilled jobs,” said Dr. Hess. “Identifying supports that help workers succeed in career training programs can help families support themselves, meet the demand for workers, and grow local economies.”

Supportive Services in Job Training: A Research Review is a product of IWPR’s Job Training Success Initiative, supported by the Walmart Foundation, which focuses on understanding the landscape of social supports in job training programs, and how these services may improve outcomes for participants, particularly low-income women. IWPR’s forthcoming research in this area, including surveys of job training administrators and participants, and a report identifying promising practices, will fill information gaps about the role of supportive services and job training success.

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Jennifer Clark
@IWPResearch
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