About the Study
In 2020, the Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) partnered with the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and funded contractor Mathematica Policy Research to conduct the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Research Portfolio Project. The evidence scans aim to (1) generate ideas on promising workforce development strategies that could be rigorously evaluated in the WIOA context and (2) describe recent and long-term economic and policy developments in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic with relevance to the public workforce system and continuous improvement of WIOA programs and services.
This Department of Labor-funded study was a result of the annual process to determine 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.
- What does the literature state about the effectiveness of the most common strategies implemented under WIOA, both at the national and the state level?
- What gaps are there in the literature, both at the national level and the state level, regarding the full portfolio of WIOA programs and services?
- How have states integrated research and evaluation into their implementation of WIOA services? What barriers do they encounter when doing so?
- What implications do recent policy and economic developments have on future research projects related to workforce programs and the different target populations relevant to WIOA programs?
Research Evidence Scan of Key Strategies Related to WIOA:
- Some evidence suggests that the receipt of case management can improve employment and earnings in a workforce development setting, though a number of related strategies have less of an evidence base. An important research gap is that little is known about which services or elements of case management are responsible for positive impacts.
- There is limited rigorous evidence on the effect of integrated services that are closely related to WIOA. Because integrated service delivery is inherently a system-level intervention, there may be challenges with implementing a rigorous evaluation of integrated services models or programs. One of the purposes of integrating services is to allow participants to more easily access additional needed services, but there is limited evidence on the impact of these services.
- There are promising findings from recent evaluations of career pathways and sector-based training, whereas transitional jobs have generally not been found to have long-term impacts. There are research gaps related to the impacts of work-based learning strategies implemented under WIOA, and what initiatives help increase training completion, obtaining credentials, and obtaining jobs in the field of training.
- Studies of training models provided to youth demonstrated some positive impacts, particularly those that included some combination of work experience or supportive services in addition to training. The evidence on interventions serving specific populations of youth is limited and finds mixed results, and it does not always examine interventions provided exclusively to these populations.
Scan of Key Trends in the Labor Market and Workforce Development System:
- Unemployment rates, labor participation rates, and projections for employment by industry have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic fallout, in some cases substantially. The unemployment rate rose by more than ten percentage points in early 2020 and has not returned to its pre-pandemic rate. Substantial effects on certain types of employment have been observed with notable increases in medical research and decreases in hospitality/leisure. Labor force participation has recently declined, especially among women. Wage and income growth has remained slow with low-wage jobs disproportionately held by black, Hispanic, and women workers.
- Technological advancements, including the rise of automation, have led to shifts in the type of skills demanded by the employers particularly during the pandemic. The need to minimize human contact during the pandemic may have further accelerated trends of automation and remote work. The number of US employees who work remotely, which increased by 115% between 2005 and 2015, rose dramatically during the pandemic with one survey finding 42% of US workers working remotely in May 2020.
- The pandemic necessitated the acceleration and expansion of remote and virtual workforce services. If proven effective, such services could be maintained after the pandemic. Though some aspects of public workforce services have been online since the 1990s, many core programs were held in person. As a result of the pandemic, many job seekers and workforce practitioners have had to rapidly improve their digital literacy skills, while practitioners have delivered services to large numbers of laid-off workers. Challenges to accessing remote services remain, include lack of access to computers, high-speed Internet connections, and spaces to participate in services.
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) sponsors independent evaluations and research, primarily conducted by external, third-party contractors in accordance with the Department of Labor Evaluation Policy. CEO’s research development process includes extensive technical review at the design, data collection and analysis stage, including: external contractor review and OMB review and approval of data collection methods and instruments per the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), Institutional Review Board (IRB) review to ensure studies adhere to the highest ethical standards, review by academic peers (e.g., Technical Working Groups), and inputs from relevant DOL agency and program officials and CEO technical staff. Final reports undergo an additional independent expert technical review and a review for Section 508 compliance prior to publication. The resulting reports represent findings from this independent research and do not represent DOL positions or policies.