Workforce Investment Act:

Labor Actions Can Help States Improve Quality of Performance Outcome Data and Delivery of Youth Services

GAO-04-308: Published: Feb 23, 2004. Publicly Released: Feb 23, 2004.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Sigurd R. Nilsen
(415) 904-2272
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) has been in effect for several years and is currently undergoing reauthorization. In order to provide the Congress with information on the implementation and effectiveness of the WIA youth program, GAO was asked to explore how services have been delivered at the local level, whether the Department of Labor's guidance has addressed challenges faced by local areas, and how effective the program has been.

Local areas primarily used the WIA program for dropout prevention and other efforts to improve academic achievement for in-school youth. Nationally, about 70 percent of youth served were in school, but percentages ranged from 38 to 86 percent by state. Officials in the five states GAO visited said that they focused on in-school youth because serving out-of-school youth was much more difficult and expensive, and less effective. Local areas emphasized learning-related summer employment for in-school youth and occupational skills training and supportive services for out-of-school youth. Over half of local boards nationwide used providers that had subcontracting arrangements with others to deliver youth services. The majority of youth were served primarily from educational institutions and community organizations. Despite Labor's guidance, local areas continue to face implementation challenges in identifying and retaining out-of-school youth, providing youth with mentoring and follow-up services, and using interim measures for ongoing program assessment. While Labor supports information exchange forums, a promising practices Web site, and technical assistance, some local areas may have difficulties gaining access to and using these resources. Little is known about the effectiveness of the WIA youth program because Labor has not yet conducted an impact evaluation. In addition, while the youth program exceeded most of its performance goals, these data were questionable because of problems with state information systems and inadequate oversight of data quality. While states will be required to verify data, concerns remain about their ability to fully implement the requirement and Labor's ability to monitor implementation consistently.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor agreed on the need to provide additional guidance to states and local areas on providing follow-up services and using interim measures. Through its Performance Enhancement Project, Labor's ETA provides in-person training workshops on how to design follow-up and retention services. ETA also published guidance in July 2004 that outlined its vision for youth services delivery under WIA, and focused on improving performance through better "real-time" data and management systems. In 2006, ETA issued its common measures policy for all of Labor's employment and training programs. One of these measures is literacy and numeracy gains for out-of-school youth who are basic skills deficient. The assessment tool is administered at program entry and at regular intervals thereafter, thus providing information on youth's progress while they are still enrolled in WIA services and not just upon exit.

    Recommendation: To assist state and local WIA youth programs address ongoing implementation challenges, the Secretary of Labor should develop additional guidance on providing follow-up services and using interim measures to track program performance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor disseminated information from other organizations on how to provide effective mentoring services. It provides this information through its Youth Resource Connections, an electronic biweekly newsletter, that directed readers to several reports on mentoring by Public/Private Ventures and a training packet developed by the School and Main Institute. Additionally, Labor's ETA continues to gather information and strategies from current initiatives, such as Ready4Work, that contains mentoring components for juvenile detainees to help local areas provide effective mentoring services. The Ready4Work initiative is jointly funded by Labor, Justice, and Public/Private Ventures.

    Recommendation: To assist state and local WIA youth programs address ongoing implementation challenges, the Secretary of Labor should disseminate guidance, including specific strategies, to help local areas provide effective mentoring services.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor agreed that many local areas face challenges in recruiting and retaining out-of-school youth. Labor has disseminated information from other organizations on out-of-school youth. It provides this information through its Youth Resource Connections, an electronic biweekly newsletter, which directed readers to a training packet on engaging out-of-school youth developed by the School and Main Institute for the Texas Workforce Commission. Additionally, the WIA Performance Enhancement Project assists states and local areas through online training, face-to-face training, and targeted technical assistance. One of the face-to-face training workshops focuses on WIA youth programs and identifies strategies for effective youth program design and delivery.

    Recommendation: To assist state and local WIA youth programs address ongoing implementation challenges, the Secretary of Labor should increase availability of guidance and technical assistance to local areas that continue to face challenges in serving out-of-school youth.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Education concurred with this recommendation and partnered with Labor's ETA. For example, ETA held a series of Regional Forums that convened state education agencies along with workforce development, juvenile justice, and child welfare agencies from 45 states to align services, create strategies for program improvement, and provide technical assistance. ETA issued guidance to inform states and local areas of its new strategic vision to serve out-of-school and at-risk youth. The guidance encourages state and local workforce systems to partner with Education by connecting dropouts and out-of-school youth to alternative education programs. Conversely, the guidance calls for alternative education institutions to work through one-stop career centers to expose youth to local training programs and career pathways in growing occupations.

    Recommendation: To promote information sharing that improves local WIA youth programs' ability to identify and serve out-of-school youth, the Secretaries of Labor and Education should coordinate efforts to clarify how schools can work with workforce officials to connect school dropouts with local WIA youth programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor agreed that collaboration with Education would improve the WIA youth program's ability to identify and serve out-of-school youth. As such, Labor partnered with Education. For example, Labor's ETA held a series of Regional Forums that convened state education agencies along with workforce development, juvenile justice, and child welfare agencies from 45 states to align services, create strategies for program improvement, and provide technical assistance. ETA issued guidance to inform states and local areas of its new strategic vision to serve out-of-school and at-risk youth. The guidance encourages state and local workforce systems to partner with Education by connecting dropouts and out-of-school youth to alternative education programs. Conversely, the guidance calls for alternative education institutions to work through one-stop career centers to expose youth to local training programs and career pathways in growing occupations.

    Recommendation: To promote information sharing that improves local WIA youth programs' ability to identify and serve out-of-school youth, the Secretaries of Labor and Education should coordinate efforts to clarify how schools can work with workforce officials to connect school dropouts with local WIA youth programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor's ETA developed a Core Monitoring Guide in 2005 for all its programs. The guide was developed to provide a consistent framework for all ETA on-site grant monitoring responsibilities. The guide includes a requirement to review the grantee's management information system for data validation purposes. In particular, the monitoring official must determine whether the information system includes a data validation process to ensure accurate input of source data, including source documentation. As part of their grant monitoring duties, several ETA regional offices conducted monitoring visits in early 2005 to review data validation files and compare findings against submitted results

    Recommendation: To obtain an accurate and complete gauge of WIA outcomes and determine whether local programs are operating successfully, the Secretary of Labor should establish standard monitoring procedures that Labor's regional offices could use to oversee state data validation efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Nov 13, 2014

Jul 23, 2014

May 15, 2014

Apr 9, 2014

Mar 5, 2014

Jan 23, 2014

Dec 20, 2013

Dec 6, 2013

Dec 2, 2013

Nov 4, 2013

Looking for more? Browse all our products here