A key challenge facing policymakers and program administrators is how to develop effective strategies to help Americans facing economic challenges, particularly the long-term unemployed, to succeed in the labor market. During the deep recession of 2008-2009, an unprecedented number of workers lost their jobs and many remained under- or unemployed, even as the economy recovered. Identifying what strategies that can help them regain their economic footing has been a priority, with a particular interest in employment in higher-paying middle- and high-skill jobs that are in demand by American businesses.
As part of this effort, in 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) funded the Ready to Work (RTW) Partnership grant program that is the focus of this report. RTW grants went to partnerships of workforce agencies, training providers, employers, and other organizations, to improve the employment prospects of the long-term unemployed by providing a range of customized services including training and job search assistance. The intent of the RTW grant program is to establish programs that might prove effective in preparing U.S. workers for employment, particularly in occupations and industries being filled by foreign workers through the H-1B visa program. In 2014, DOL awarded four-year grants totaling $170 million to 23 grantees, with individual awards ranging from $3 to $10 million.
DOL's Employment and Training Administration, in collaboration with the Chief Evaluation Office, sponsored a rigorous evaluation of the RTW grant program. The evaluation includes an implementation and impact study and is being conducted by Abt Associates and its partner MEF Associates. In consultation with DOL, the evaluation team purposively selected four grantees for study based on their program design and scale.
This report documents early findings from the evaluation's implementation study of the four grantees. For each grantee, the report describes the design and operation of its grant-funded program components, including staff guidance, occupational training, employment readiness and job search assistance, work-based training, and other services individualized to each participant's needs and skill gaps. The report also presents key findings related to the implementation and operation of the programs. Future reports will examine the effectiveness of the four grantee programs individually in improving participants' education and employment outcomes. (Author abstract)