Coordination of Local Jobs Programs Is Better Than Realized, Study Finds

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Local vocational-education, job-training, and welfare-to-work programs are much better at coordinating their efforts than federal lawmakers realize, according to a team of researchers who spent the past two years studying such employment and training efforts.

Despite the similar missions of the various federal employment programs, local educators, job trainers, and welfare workers usually avoid creating duplicate services, the report from the National Center for Research in Vocational Education asserts. Uncoordinated services most often result from circumstances not addressed by federal coordination mandates, the report concludes.

"While certain barriers to effective collaboration remain, and there are some communities in which the programs are relentlessly hostile to one another, by and large vocational education and [Job Training Partnership Act] programs have learned to cooperate in ways that are both amicable and productive," according to the report, "Order Amidst Complexity: The Status of Coordination Among Vocational Education, Job Training Partnership Act, and Welfare-to-Work Programs."

On the basis of case studies and interviews with state and local officials in seven states, the researchers conclude that Congressional efforts to legislate coordination among4agencies may be misplaced.

"The complaint that there is no coordination is just plain wrong," said W. Norton Grubb, an education professor and site director for the ncrve at the University of California at Berkeley. "I'm not sure this is one of those issues Congress should spring to action to address. It's a fairly open system in most places."

In areas where vocational educators and job trainers cannot find common ground, the researchers say the causes range from a lack of support services within school programs to jtpa contracting that is dominated by special-interest groups.

The best way to improve local integration of employment and training efforts is to understand the particular strengths of each program, the report argues.

Educators' efforts to tap into welfare-to-work programs may require consideration of child care and crisis counseling for welfare recipients. In building bridges to jtpa programs, increased job-placement efforts and courses that depart from the traditional semester calendar and school-day schedule are often necessary, the report says.

"Because technical institutes, area vocational schools, and adult schools are more likely to have short-term programs with flexible entry and exit schedules, jtpa8makes greater use of these institutions," the authors write, adding that even with modified services, administrative headaches often linger.

Programs under the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act and the jtpa, as well as the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (jobs) welfare-reform program that begins full implementation next month, routinely operate with different service boundaries, conflicting fiscal years, and incompatible computer and reporting systems.

Lawmakers' efforts to refocus federal such programs as jobs and the jtpa toward basic-skills competency should help reorient employment and training programs toward the same goal, Mr. Grubb said.

"Going for a long-term payoff means you are headed exactly in the right direction," he said, adding that educators should benefit as job trainers look beyond on-the-job training for programs that incorporate learning skills.

The report adds that lawmakers could assist coordination even more by simplifying participant eligibility, clarifying the intent of the federal programs, and increasing coordination among the federal agencies that administer the programs.

Copies of the report are available for $4.75 each from the ncrve, Materials Distribution Service, Western Illinois University, 46 Horrabin Hall, Macomb, Ill. 61455; telephone (800) 637-7652.

Vol. 10, Issue 2

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