Workforce Investment Act Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs Gold Standard Evaluation

Prepared for
U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

With a growing need for a more skilled workforce, providing effective, efficient employment and training services is an important national priority. Two of the nation’s largest publicly funded employment and training programs are the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs, which were first authorized under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) and then reauthorized in 2014 under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). These programs together serve about 7 million job seekers at a cost of about $1.8 billion.

The U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, sponsored a national evaluation of the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs. This evaluation was conducted by Mathematica and its partners—Social Policy Research Associates, MDRC, and the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce. 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.

Key findings from the 30-month impact study include:

  • Intensive services funded by the programs were effective. Providing intensive services increased earnings over the follow-up period by $3,300 to $7,100 (7 to 20 percent) per customer depending on the data source. The benefit-cost analyses demonstrate that providing intensive services is cost-effective from the perspectives of customers, taxpayers, and society as a whole.
  • 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 findings are not conclusive because the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs offered funding for training to only a minority of their customers and many study participants who were not offered training from the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs received funding from other sources. However, the evidence suggests that it is not likely that the impacts will increase because the difference across groups in enrollment in training disappeared by the beginning of the second year after random assignment.
  • The study findings suggest that policymakers should continue to invest in staff assistance, but look for effective training approaches. The study found that staff assistance and other intensive services are effective. However, intensive services alone are unlikely to help all customers achieve satisfactory longer-term employment outcomes and economic self-sufficiency. WIOA made important enhancements to training. Evidence from other studies suggests that these enhancements will increase the effectiveness of training.

In addition to the 30-month impact study, this evaluation also included: