National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Final Report. Skill Enhancement Services

09/01/2004

Skill training was clearly less common than basic employment preparation. In keeping with the federal WtW legislation, which de-emphasized pre-employment training to develop work skills, enrollees in the 11 study sites were only about half as likely to receive skill enhancement services during the year following program entry as they were to receive the employment preparation services discussed in the previous section. Aside from the two JHU sites that by design encouraged post-employment skill development, Nashville was the only site where more than 40 percent of enrollees participated in education or training (Exhibit III.4). The Nashville program emphasized human development and operated under Tennessees federal TANF waiver that expanded the allowable services to permit a broader set of activities to satisfy work requirements. Only between 24 and 37 percent of enrollees in the other study sites received skill enhancement services during the year after program entry.

The most common types of skill enhancement activities were high school completion or GED programs and advanced vocational or technical training. With the exception of the Milwaukee, Nashville, and JHU sites, about 10 to 20 percent of WtW enrollees in the study sites participated in GED/high school programs and about the same proportion participated in advanced education programs (Exhibit III.5).(32) Only 5 to 10 percent of enrollees participated in adult basic education (ABE) and virtually none in any site except Boston participated in English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. Restrictions on the receipt of TANF by recent immigrants may have limited the number of WtW enrollees who could benefit from ESL instruction.

Enrollees in Milwaukee and Nashville participated in GED or high school programs at relatively high rates (23 and 24 percent, respectively). Nashville enrollees also had relatively high rates of participation in ABE and in advanced education programs. Given that community colleges implemented the JHU program, it is not surprising that 28 percent of enrollees in Baltimore County and 31 percent in St. Lucie County participated in advanced education programs (Exhibit III.5).

Skill enhancement services represented a substantially larger investment in human capital than employment preparation services. The skill enhancement services received by WtW enrollees typically lasted for two to six months and entailed a commitment of 10 to 20 hours per week (Fraker et al. 2004, Exhibit III.6). Enrollees in the Milwaukee NOW program who participated in GED or high school education programs did so for 12 hours per week for five months, on average. Their counterparts in Nashville were even more intensively engaged in these programs, averaging 20 hours of participation per week for six months. Enrollees in the Baltimore County and St. Lucie County JHU programs who participated in advanced education programs did so for roughly 15 hours per week over an interval of three to four months, on average.

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