Local Investments in Workforce Development: Initial Evaluation Findings

Local Investments in Workforce Development: Initial Evaluation Findings

Author(s): Tara Carter Smith, Christopher T. King, Daniel G. Schroeder
December 2007
Publication Type:

Abstract: The City of Austin contracted with the Ray Marshall Center to conduct an evaluation of the effects of the City's recent investments in workforce development services. The outcomes evaluation documents the results of workforce services participation, including the number of clients served, the number completing training and related services, the number placed in employment, wages earned, and other outputs/outcomes, largely through linked administrative data. It also seeks to validate outcomes data that is currently self-reported by individual service providers to WorkSource and the City of Austin.


The evaluation also features an exploratory effort to gauge the "value-added" from receiving these workforce services through quasi-experimental impact analysis comparing labor market outcomes for City-supported participants with those of a comparison group of similar non-participants. For the impact analysis, comparison group members have been drawn from two possible sources in the Austin-area: individuals who either registered to look for employment with the state's WorkinTexas program or received “core” services under the Workforce Investment Act.

This report characterizes the City's workforce services providers and briefly explains their key features. It then presents the labor market outcomes observed to date, some of which are multi-year results reported for several earlier cohorts supported by both the City of Austin and Travis County. Key findings from the report include:

  • Labor market outcomes varied widely from provider to provider over the past several years, likely stemming from a combination of differences in target population, activity mix and placement focus.
  • Creating valid comparison groups to support impact analysis for these providers is challenging and works better for some than others. It is particularly challenging for programs serving large numbers of youth and ex-offenders.
  • For those programs and providers that emphasize intensive skills development (e.g., Capital IDEA), earnings increases--and net earnings impacts--are likely to show up even more strongly beyond the time period available for this analysis. It typically takes participants in skills development activities several years to overcome or "catch up" from the reduced earnings they underwent while in training relative to participants in "work-first" type activities. Longer-term tracking of results is highly desirable and is expected to demonstrate the full value of such investments.
  • For more recent cohorts of participants served by these providers, it may take some time before sufficient employment and earnings data are available from UI wage records to merit in-depth analysis.

Ray Marshall Center

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