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Job Training Did Not Boost Youths' Earnings, Study Finds

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WASHINGTON--The federal program designed to provide employment training for youths not planning to attend college and for adults who need special services appears more successful at boosting the earnings of its adult participants than those of the youths enrolled, a study has concluded.

A report on the findings, released late last month by the Labor Department, is the first from an ongoing national study of the Job Training Partnership Act program.

It indicates that adult men and women who participated in the J.T.P.A. subsequently earned more than comparable groups that did not take part but had the opportunity to find other job training.

Adult women earned an average of $539 more than a control group over an 18-month period if they had received J.T.P.A. services. Adult men who had participated earned an average of $550 more than nonparticipants during the same period.

But for the 16- to 21-year-olds participating in the program, who had either dropped out of high school or had recently graduated and did not plan to pursue higher education, the apparent impact of the J.T.P.A. on later earnings was not as promising.

Young men who had participated earned $854 less over the 18-month period than a control group of their contemporaries who had not. The report's authors, Abt Associates of Cambridge, Mass., attribute the differential in large part to the program's on-the-job-training component, in which participants are often given low-wage, unskilled jobs.

Young women who had participated earned $182 less than those who had not. The authors say that amount is not statistically significant.

Regardless of the program's effects on later earnings, the study found, all segments participating in the J.T.P.A. did better than comparable nonparticipants in improving their educational attainment by getting a high-school diploma or the General Educational Development credential.

'Very Troubling'

Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin called the results of the study "very positive.'' But she acknowledged that "while the results for adults are encouraging, the findings for out-of-school youth are very troubling indeed.''

A Democratic Congressional aide who follows the job-training program agreed. "Generally, it's very sobering,'' the aide said. "Over all, we're not doing a great job.''

Ms. Martin used the release of the report to call on the Congress to pass proposed amendments to the program that would target youth-training programs on the poor and disadvantaged and would provide for services year round, instead of only in the summer.

The Congressional aide said the report points out the benefit of job-training programs that stress education and classroom training instead of on-the-job training.

The House and the Senate have passed separate bills to improve the program, and the aide said staff meetings would commence in a couple of weeks to begin reconciling them. (See Education Week, March 25, 1992.)

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and then-Senator Dan Quayle, Republican of Indiana, co-sponsored the creation of the J.T.P.A. in 1982. Since its implementation in October 1983, more than 10 million people have participated.

The program served some 266,000 16- to 21-year-olds in 1990. Its current budget is $4 billion; President Bush is seeking $4.1 billion for the program in fiscal year 1993.

20,000 in Study

The new report is part of a 30-month study on the J.T.P.A. involving more than 20,000 adults and youths from 16 service areas around the country.

The study subjects were randomly split into two groups--those who would participate in the J.T.P.A. and those who had to find job training elsewhere. The authors followed the subjects between November 1987 and September 1989, when they enrolled in three- to four-month J.T.P.A. job-training and educational programs.

Among other findings, the report states that:

  • Over all, 26 percent of the youths who had dropped out of high school and had received J.T.P.A. services earned a high-school diploma or J.T.P.A., compared with 15 percent of those who sought employment help elsewhere. For young women, the comparison was 29 percent and 17 percent, respectively, and for young men it was 24 percent and 14 percent.
  • Young men who had participated in the J.T.P.A.'s on-the-job-training program or had received a mix of educational and miscellaneous services subsequently earned less than those who had received only J.T.P.A. classroom training.
  • Young women who had taken part in the on-the-job-training program later earned more than those who had participated in the other J.T.P.A. programs. But their earnings decreased the longer they stayed in their jobs.

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