Employment and Training Programs:

Providing Information on Colocating Services and Consolidating Administrative Structures

GAO-11-645T: Published: May 11, 2011. Publicly Released: May 11, 2011.

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This testimony discusses the findings from our recent work on federal employment and training programs and our prior work on the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA). GAO has recently identified 47 federally-funded employment and training programs for fiscal year 2009, defining them as programs that are specifically designed to enhance the job skills of individuals in order to increase their employability, identify job opportunities, and/or help job seekers obtain employment. These programs, which are administered by nine separate federal agencies--including the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services (HHS)--spent about $18 billion dollars in fiscal year 2009 to provide services such as job search assistance and job counseling to program participants. Seven programs accounted for about three-fourths of this spending, and two--Wagner- Peyser funded Employment Service (ES) and WIA Adult--together reported serving over 18 million individuals, or about 77 percent of the total number of participants served across all programs. Forty-four of the 47 programs we identified, including those with broader missions such as multipurpose block grants, overlap with at least one other program in that they provide at least one similar service to a similar population. However, differences may exist in eligibility, objectives, and service delivery. Almost all of the 47 programs tracked multiple outcome measures related to employment and training, and the most frequently tracked outcome measure was "entered employment." However, little is known about the effectiveness of employment and training programs because, since 2004, only 5 reported conducting an impact study, and about half of all the remaining programs have not had a performance review of any kind. The multiplicity of employment and training programs combined with the limited information regarding impact raise concerns about the extent to which the federally-funded employment and training system is performing as efficiently and effectively as it should. As early as the 1990s we issued a series of reports that raised questions about the efficiency and effectiveness of the federally-funded employment and training system, and we concluded that a structural overhaul and consolidation of these programs was needed. Partly in response to such concerns, 13 years ago Congress passed WIA. This testimony focuses on two areas where we have identified opportunities to promote greater efficiencies: colocating services and consolidating administrative structures

Increasing colocation of services at a single site, as well as consolidating state workforce and welfare administrative agencies, could increase efficiencies, and several states and localities have undertaken such initiatives. However, implementation may pose challenges and little information is available about the strategies and results of these initiatives. To facilitate further progress in increasing administrative efficiencies, we have previously recommended that the Secretaries of Labor and HHS work together to develop and disseminate information about such efforts. Sustained congressional oversight is pivotal in promoting further efficiencies. Specifically, Congress could explore opportunities to foster state and local innovation in integrating services and consolidating administrative structures.

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