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Workforce Investment Act training for older workers: Toward a better understanding of older worker needs during the economic recovery (Zhang 2011)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Zhang, T. (2011). Workforce Investment Act training for older workers: Toward a better understanding of older worker needs during the economic recovery (ETA Occasional Paper 2011-10). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

Highlights

  • The study examined the impacts of various Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs and services on the employment rates of older participants who exited these programs.
  • The study used a statistical model (fixed and random effect) to estimate the correlation between WIA programs and services and the Entered Employment Rate one quarter after participants age 55 and older exited the programs. The study used the WIA Standardized Record Data from January 1, 2006, to September 30, 2007, and data on state-level unemployment rates and trends from a Bureau of Labor Statistics data set.
  • The study found that some characteristics of the WIA training programs and services are associated with higher employment rates, while other characteristics are associated with lower employment rates.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the study did not demonstrate that participants across different training programs were similar before the study and did not account for possible differences in the groups. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the WIA programs and services; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) training for older workers

Features of the Intervention

The WIA of 1998 was superseded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, effective in July 2015. The WIA program offers training services to upgrade skills for workers of all ages. States and local areas can allocate training funds to intended populations, including older workers.

Features of the Study

The study used statistical models (fixed and random effect) to estimate the association between WIA training programs and services and the Entered Employment Rate one quarter after older participants exited the programs. The study addressed characteristics of program participation, the type of program and type of trainings. The WIA program participation information included whether the participants were served by the National Emergency Grant program, or Trade Adjustment Assistance programsor Wagner-Peyser Act The program types included supportive services, needs-related payments, core self-services and informational activities, workforce information services, established individual training account, Pell Grant, and pre-vocational activities. The training types included on-the-job training, skill upgrading and retraining, entrepreneurial training, adult basic education or English as a second language in combination with training, and customized training. The study sample included older adults (age 55 and older) and older dislocated workers separately. The study used data from 428 (older adult analysis) and 342 (older dislocated workers analysis) Workforce Investment Areas from January 1, 2006, to September 30, 2007.

Findings

Employment

  • The study found that participating in Trade Adjustment Assistance–funded WIA programs was associated with a significantly lower employment rate among older dislocated workers.
  • The study also found that receiving supportive services, core self-services and informational activities, on-the-job services, and customized training were associated with significantly higher employment rates for older dislocated workers.
  • Among older adults, supportive services and on-the-job services were associated with higher employment rates, while customized training was associated with a lower employment rate.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

Although the study used statistical models, the author did not account for employment and earnings at least one year before the training. These characteristics, rather than the training programs themselves, may account for the findings. In addition, the analyses did not account for self-selection into and exiting from the different types of training programs.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the study did not ensure that participants across different training programs were similar before participating in the program and did not account for possible differences in the groups. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the WIA programs and services; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

March 2019

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