Jan 222015

September 2015- In cooperation with Thomas P. Miller & Associates (TPMA ), The Policy & Research Group has been selected to act as the external evaluator for two four-year Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF) grants funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. PRG and TPMA’s partnership comprises the evaluation of two WIF programs taking place separately in New York and Florida.

The WIF grant program is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor and aims to improve and expand the design and delivery of employment and training services oriented toward long-term improvements in the public labor force, both in terms of outcomes for job seekers and employers and the cost-effectiveness of these services. The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration states, “By focusing on change at both the service delivery and the systems levels, and by requiring rigorous evaluation of each investment, ETA seeks to ensure that these investments form the basis for broader change and continuous improvement in the operation of the public workforce system.”

New York. A four-year WIF grant awarded to the Workforce Investment Boards (WIB) of Herkimer, Madison & Otsego counties in New York. The tri-county WIB group’s program, entitled the Career Opportunity Center Network, aims to create an innovative education-workforce model that prepares students who have dropped out of college for high-growth job sectors while providing employers with the skilled labor they need. The Career Opportunity Center Network will create a regional, on-line tutoring and outreach project to enroll young, economically disadvantaged college dropouts in postsecondary training and education that will help them succeed in college as a first step to finding good-paying jobs. Through partnerships with WIB, community colleges, and local employers, high-growth job sectors will be identified as well as the skill gaps within these sectors.

To assess the impact of the intervention, PRG has proposed a low-cost Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) that seeks to use existing data (unemployment insurance wage records, National Student Clearinghouse records, and WIB administrative records) to assess the causal effects of the program. PRG will work in conjunction with the WIBs in Herkimer, Madison & Otsego counties to randomly assign participants to receive the intervention or training as usual to determine if the program has an impact on college attendance, completion of post-secondary credentials, and employment outcomes.

Florida. A four-year WIF grant received by the state of Florida Department of Economic Opportunity in conjunction with Career Source Florida (CSF) Network. CSF is implementing a new statewide Performance Funding Model (PFM), which seeks to improve the effectiveness of the 24 Regional Workforce Boards in the Florida system. Workforce Investment Act dollars will be allocated to create a pool of performance funds. These funds will be used to reward regions for a) meeting established targets within the PFM; b) demonstrating that they are improving relative to their peers on certain metrics, and c) rewarding those regions which reach a target level of excellence or best in state.

To assess the impact of the PFM, PRG has proposed a quasi-experimental “natural experiment” with propensity score weighting, coupled with statistical analyses that aim to reduce potential bias and improve precision of estimates. In addition to the “natural experiment” design, we propose to maximize the balance of both groups on observed variables with weighting procedures that will take into account background characteristics and contextual factors that may motivate or otherwise explain outcomes (e.g., economic conditions, other policy events, time in study window). We will also control for these background and contextual variations with statistical controls in our analytic models.

The DOL announced first round of WIF awards in April 2012 and provided approximately $146.9 million in grants to states, local workforce areas, and other eligible entities. In September of 2014, the Employment and Training Administration announced Round 2, which awarded $53 million in WIF grants to eleven grantees across the country.