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GAO Finds Training Does Not Boost Work Prospects or Earnings

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Washington

Vocational programs operated under the federal Job Training Partnership Act do not appear to ensure greater earnings or even improved chances of employment for participants, a study by the General Accounting Office concludes.

"Five years after expressing an interest in JTPA-sponsored job training, individuals assigned to participate in the program did not have earnings or employment rates significantly higher than individuals not assigned to participate," the report released this month says.

The study, "The Job Training Partnership Act: Long Term Earnings and Employment Outcomes," included 20,000 people eligible for JTPA services who applied to the program between November 1987 and September 1989 in 16 different geographical areas.

The researchers compared the progress five years after application of those who received services and those who did not. In the fifth year of the study, male youths who participated in the JTPA program earned an average of $7,600, while males in the control group earned an average of $6,800. Young women in JTPA programs, meanwhile, earned $5,400 in the fifth year, while their peers in the control group earned $5,200.

The study did not attempt to explain why there was no apparent advantage for the JTPA participants. The study also did not specify what type of training participants received.

In reviewing a draft of the report, officials of the Department of Labor "took exception to what [they] characterized as unwarranted negative conclusions that are not consistent with the report's findings," the researchers noted.

Labor Department officials argued, among other criticisms, that the study's findings have only limited relevance to existing JTPA programs, which are run differently from such programs in the 1980's. They also argued that it ignores other benefits to participants of JTPA programs, including enhanced job skills and work habits.

The report is one of two the GAO released this month that are intended to help lawmakers working to overhaul federal job-training and vocational-education programs. (See Education Week, April 17, 1996.)

Little Duplication Found

The second study indicates that there is little overlap between the federal Job Corps program and job-training programs operated by individual states.

"Job Corps: Comparison of Federal Program with State Youth Training Initiatives" studied whether the Labor Department program duplicates state-level initiatives. To be considered duplicative, a state program would have to serve a disadvantaged population, provide basic academic instruction, focus on vocational training, and provide services in a residential setting.

"We found that most state and local programs for youth differ from Job Corps," the report says.

The first copy of either report is free; additional copies are $2 each. Write to the General Accounting Office, P.O. Box 6015, Gaithersburg, Md. 20884-6015. Copies of most GAO reports also are available on the Internet's World Wide Web at http://www.GAO.gov/.

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