About The Study
In 2016, the Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) partnered with the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) to fund contractors Westat and MDRC to conduct an implementation study and randomized controlled trial (RCT) impact study of the H-1B-funded TechHire Partnership Grants (TechHire) and the Strengthening Working Families Initiative (SWFI). The Department of Labor awarded funds for both of these programs in September 2016.
H-1B visas allow employers to hire individuals from outside the United States to work in specialty occupations, such as science, engineering, and healthcare. TechHire and SWFI, funded through H1-B visa fees, aim to develop a U.S. workforce with the skills to work in these high-demand fields. The grants provide competitive funding for programs that make training more accessible to individuals who might otherwise experience barriers to training and employment; provide support services that address these individuals’ unique and varied challenges; and offer a range of training strategies to address skills deficits.
This Department of Labor-funded study was a result of the Department’s research priorities for the upcoming year. It contributes to the labor evidence-base to inform employment and training programs and policies and addresses Departmental strategic goals and priorities.
- Affordable Child Care Challenges and Solutions for Low-Income Parents Pursuing Training and Employment: Lessons from the Strengthening Working Families Initiative (April 2022)
- Implementation Lessons for Practitioners from the TechHire and SWFI Randomized Controlled Trial (April 2022)
- Training for High-Tech Jobs: Implementation and Early Impacts from the TechHire and Strengthening Working Families Initiative Randomized Controlled Trial (November 2021)
- Evaluation of the TechHire and Strengthening Working Families Initiative Grant Programs: Findings from the Implementation Study (November 2021)
- Early Outcomes Study Report (November 2021)
- TechHire - Data-Driven Decision Making: Tools to Review and Manage Performance (Webinar, February 2019)
- SWFI-Data-Driven Decision Making: Tools to Review and Manage Performance (Webinar, February 2019)
- What are the impacts of the TechHire and SWFI programs on employment and earnings, skills and credentials, and advancement and job quality?
- What are the types and combinations of programs, approaches, or serviced provided under the TechHire and SWFI grant programs?
- How are the systems, partnerships, programs, and services implemented? What factors influence implementation? What issues and challenges are encountered, and how are they overcome?
- How and to what extent do tailored support services and training tracks expand participant access to targeted employment, improve program completion rates, connect participants to employment opportunities, and promote innovative and sustainable program designs?
Affordable Child Care Challenges and Solutions for Low-Income Parents Pursuing Training and Employment: Lessons from the Strengthening Working Families Initiative:
- Childcare needs are closely tied to family circumstances, such as the parent’s employment schedule and the age(s) or special needs of the child(ren). Program staff assessed these circumstances during the application and enrollment processes to connect participants with services.
- Programs viewed support in navigating the complex childcare system as an essential service. Staff identified lack of information about childcare options as a major career barrier to parents. Programs’ childcare navigators helped parent participants search for high-quality childcare as well as identified subsidies for which they were eligible and high-quality providers.
- Program staff worked with childcare providers to better accommodate parents. Successes included co-locating childcare with training programs; improving the alignment between childcare services and parents’ needs; supporting providers in meeting licensing and other requirements to lower barriers to accepting childcare subsidies; and streamlining participants’ access to childcare.
Implementation Lessons for Practitioners from the TechHire and SWFI Randomized Controlled Trial:
- Program recruitment was a challenge, and staff cited three key methods for successful outreach and recruitment. Specific challenges included generally (1) low unemployment rates during this pre-pandemic period, which made people less interested in training, (2) the relatively high skill levels needed for some of the training, and (3) a lack of dedicated recruitment staff. Recruitment strategies that program staff reported as being successful include partnerships with other organizations to encourage referrals, direct recruitment at Head Start centers, and social media and advertising.
- Program staff described challenges preparing participants with low skills to enter high-skilled, high-tech jobs in a relatively short period of time. Of the five programs participating in the randomized controlled trial, three of them focused on preparing participants for entry-level jobs within high-tech industries, hoping that advancement would lead to higher-level jobs in the future. One program that trained students for jobs in the information technology (IT) industry included a two-week pre-training career readiness and exploration module, which staff supported and valued.
- Of the support services that programs offered, case management was widely valued, while childcare services were infrequently used. Case management services facilitated communication with students and helped connect them to support services when needed, particularly when case managers felt that they had an appropriate caseload and when staff roles and responsibilities were clear. Some staff members credited case management with increasing student success. In contrast, participants only minimally used childcare services. Some programs considered alternative methods—such as changing class schedules or helping to formalize family and friend childcare networks—to expand childcare opportunities. Programs also found that designating a child care “navigator” or “concierge” to assist parents was important.
- Program staff noted that a dedicated job developer would have enabled more substantive case management of training graduates. Staff at programs without a dedicated job developer also described challenges with connecting participants to employment opportunities. Relationships with employers were key, and staff noted that these relationships were most successful when mutual benefits were clear.
- Grantees successfully worked with partners for education, training, and supportive services, but experienced challenges engaging employers for hiring. Grantees established mutually beneficial relationships with workforce investment organizations for recruitment and funding, with education and training providers for participant training options, and with employers for curriculum design. However, only half of grantees entered into agreements with employers to interview or hire program completers. Early and continuous employer outreach helped some to ensure reliable engagement.
- Grantees had difficulty recruiting qualified applicants, particularly youth and young adults. For most of the grant and study period, the unemployment rate was low and potential applicants either could earn similar wages and benefits in occupations that did not require training or had barriers to employment that also made training difficult. About half of TechHire grantees struggled to recruit youth and young adults between 17 and 29; several had to turn away individuals aged 30 and over to meet the Department of Labor (DOL) requirement that for programs targeting young adults, at least 75% of participants had to be in this younger age group.
- Grantees varied in the extent to which the training they funded was similar to existing training programs. Eighteen grantees said that the occupational skills training they provided under the grant was distinct from existing training programs. In these cases, the distinctive features of the training programs included acceleration, work-based learning, or certifications. In contrast, 14 grantees said that the occupational skills training was the same or similar to existing training programs. The distinguishing feature of these programs was the availability of supportive and wraparound services.
- Grantees reported that case management was one of the most valuable components of their programs. One-quarter of grantees used a case management approach to deliver supportive services from intake through the duration of a participant’s involvement. Case managers typically helped participants to develop an individualized service plan, connected participants to training and supportive services, and periodically checked in with participants to monitor progress.
- Grantees worked with childcare providers to accommodate participants’ needs but reported less success with increasing employer accommodations for childcare. Grantees helped both training providers and childcare providers to access subsidies and to co-locate training and childcare services. However, employers were reluctant to accommodate participants’ childcare needs, such as by adjusting work hours to align with childcare availability. In some cases, grantees were able to advocate on behalf of individual participants with employers.
- Grantees experienced challenges placing program completers into jobs, but employers who did hire completers were satisfied with their occupational skills. Placement challenges were related to completers’ lack of soft skills, barriers such as lack of transportation, and a mismatch between the training offered and the skills needed.
- The participant populations recruited by the five RCT programs differed in several ways. Programs had discretion to set eligibility criteria beyond the criteria defined by the grant; as a result, the populations in each local program differed not only by local characteristics but also by screening processes. For example, one program recruited mainly from local community colleges, while others focused on individuals less likely to self-select into college programs. Such differences in background and circumstance could influence participants’ success in completing training and securing employment.
- There was a discrepancy between the intention to prepare workers for middle- and high-skilled jobs and the relatively low skill level provided by the trainings offered. At three of the five programs, this led to placement in mostly entry-level, lower-skilled jobs that were not in demand. Work-based learning—an intended component of both TechHire and SWFI programs that could have given participants experience that would lead to higher-level jobs—was largely missing from all programs.
- Participants in the TechHire and SWFI programs were more likely than the control group to receive support related to case management. Case management included various services to help participants look for and obtain a job. This support increased participants’ receipt of preemployment services by a statistically significant margin compared to the control group of individuals not participating in these programs; impacts ranged from a 9-percentage point difference in receiving help developing a résumé to a 22-point difference in receiving help with job readiness or soft skills training.
- The TechHire and SWFI programs increased participation in occupational skills training relative to the control group. The programs also produced a positive and statistically significant impact on enrollment in or completion of occupational skills training within 7 to 14 months of entering the RCT. At that time, 43% of the treatment group reported in the Wave 1 survey that they were enrolled in or had completed training, compared to 21% of the control group.
- SWFI increased the likelihood of participants receiving help to find or access childcare, though it did not impact participants’ use of childcare or perception of childcare as a barrier. Although 31% of SWFI group members reported receiving help finding childcare—17 percentage points more than the control group—similar rates of SWFI and control group members reported having to quit a job, job search, or training due to difficulties obtaining childcare. Interviews with staff revealed a potential mismatch between participants’ childcare needs and what the programs could offer.
- There is no evidence, yet that TechHire or SWFI affected labor market outcomes. This result was expected given the short follow-up period, but longer-term impacts may demonstrate stronger labor market outcomes for participants as compared to the control group. Researchers base this expectation on the positive program impacts for participation in and completion of occupational training programs. A planned 18-month follow-up will provide more evidence on participants’ training and employment outcomes.
SWFI Child Care Brief
Marrow, J., Lewis, M, Gasper, J. (2022). Westat. Affordable Child Care Challenges and Solutions for Low-Income Parents Pursuing Training and Employment: Lessons from the Strengthening Working Families Initiative. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
TechHire SWFI Implementation Brief
Rock, A., Metz, R., Tessler, B., Gasper, J. (2022). Westat. Implementation Lessons for Practitioners from the TechHire and SWFI Randomized Controlled Trial. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Gasper, J., Baier, K. (2021). Westat. Early Outcomes Study Report: Evaluation of the TechHire and Strengthening Working Families Initiative Grant Programs. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor
Early Impact Report
Tessler, B., Schaberg, K., Fink, B., Gasper, J., Metz, R., Rock, A., Jones, D., Kanengiser, H. (2021). Westat. Training for High-Tech Jobs: Implementation and Early Impacts from the TechHire and Strengthening Working Families Initiative Randomized Controlled Trial. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Gasper, J., Gearing, M., Giesen, L., Marrow, J., Muz, B., Dodkowitz, A. (2021). Westat. Evaluation of the TechHire and Strengthening Working Families Initiative Grant Programs Findings from the Implementation Study. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
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