Joint Center Updates

Improving Training Evaluation Data to Brighten the Future of Black Workers Cover

Federal Workforce Trainings Programs Frequently Fail to Track Data by Race, Reveals Report from Joint Center

Federal Workforce Trainings Programs Frequently Fail to Track Data by Race, Reveals Report from Joint Center

Increasing number of Black workers who transition into good jobs depends on effectiveness of training programs

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released a report revealing that too few of federal/federally-funded workforce training programs track outcomes by race. The new report also outlines key recommendations for improving results and achieving greater equity for Black participants in workforce training programs.

Improving Training Evaluation Data to Brighten the Future of Black Workers” evaluates 80 career pathways training programs, including those offered by community colleges, state and regional workforce agencies, and others. Joint Center researchers found that just 27 programs tracked the race of participants and a mere six programs reported outcomes by race. Just four programs reported positive outcomes for Black workers: Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative, the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership, the WorkAdvance Demonstration, and Year Up.

Joint Center researchers argue that to improve performance accountability among programs, federal, state, and local officials should use more robust data analysis – including careful evaluation of disaggregated racial data – to advance racial equity in workforce training.

“Without evaluating these programs based on race, we’re flying completely blind about potential racial disparities. Programs like these have historically been rife with structural inequity, and the first step in correcting it is to understand precisely where, and to what degree, it exists,” said Dr. Alex Camardelle, director of Workforce Policy at the Joint Center and co-author of the report. “It is essential that research on training policies and practices address racial disparities in the labor market and focus on linking job seekers to high-quality employment if we are to ensure Black workers have access to good jobs in the future economy.”

Among the four programs reporting positive outcomes for Black participants, their practices varied. Some emphasized strong case management and addressed barriers that might otherwise prevent students from completing training, like child care and transportation. Some provided financial supports such as weekly stipends or funding for textbooks and other course materials. However, the Joint Center found that all four programs leveraged strong sectoral connections. The programs used strong ties to employers or unions to help understand the needs of the labor market and place job seekers into internships or permanent employment.

While four programs showed promising results for Black participants, Joint Center scholars also revealed disparities in outcomes by race and ethnicity. None of the studies examined which factors may have contributed to the racial disparities, and none analyzed the effects of particular program elements on the outcomes for Black participants or any other groups of color. Thus, while the results from these programs present helpful insights, they also have limitations.

The Joint Center made the following recommendations for lawmakers:

  • Require states to report program outcomes by race;
  • Enact data standards that allow for coordination and collaboration;
  • Where disparities in outcomes exist, improve programming; and
  • Help workers of color succeed in nondiverse fields with “good jobs.”

“To fully maximize outcomes and advance racial equity, program staff and evaluators should take two key steps: Regularly disaggregate data by race and use multiple approaches to collect and analyze data by race,” Dr. Camardelle said.

Click here to read the full report.