When Washington state’s Division of Child Support closed its offices in March 2020 in response to COVID-19, its employment program—Families Forward Washington—kept running with minimal interruption, because the original design was based on working remotely. Its model may offer useful pointers for other service agencies for adapting to the pandemic.
Meeting the Needs of Workers and Employers
Low-wage workers have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, experiencing greater levels of unemployment than their higher-wage-earning peers. Training programs that focus on moving workers into skilled jobs in industries with strong local demand could reposition them for 21st-century success.
A Synthesis of Findings on Sector Strategies
Job seekers with low incomes face numerous hurdles to finding and keeping high-quality jobs. Sector strategies address those hurdles by matching job seekers with skills training for specific industries or occupations where there is a growing demand. This review examines a cross-section of strategies, highlighting successes and areas for improvement.
An Interview with Karen Pennington and Dawn Slinkard
Tulsa Community WorkAdvance is a sector-based training and career advancement program that prepares people for jobs in the health care field. Executive Director Karen Pennington talks about the impact of COVID-19 on operations and future opportunities in health care, and graduate Dawn Slinkard describes her experience in the program.
Amid keen interest in helping students, young adults, and low-wage workers build the skills necessary to succeed in a technologically advanced economy, MDRC is studying a range of programs that feature employer involvement, such as career pathways from high school into college and the workforce, work-based learning, apprenticeships, and sectoral training.
Costs, Benefits, and Impacts from the WorkAdvance Demonstration
WorkAdvance goes beyond the previous generation of employment programs, concentrating on demand-driven skills training and identifiable career pathways. Findings show the approach increased earnings and led to advancement gains over time at the most successful study sites. One program, Per Scholas, boosted earnings by 20 percent in the last year of follow-up.
In his testimony before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, MDRC President Gordon Berlin argues that the most direct way to alleviate poverty is to tackle the legacy of falling wages, particularly for men with less education.
In a rapidly growing low-wage labor market, the workforce investment system and the Workforce Investment Act should expand their focus to include job retention and advancement services by engaging private employers and to enhance the accessibility of work supports.