Program Review: Employment and Training

This report, the latest in a series responding to the Act's mandate, updates and adds new information on the use of Recovery Act funds on employment and training programs.

What GAO Found

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) provided $500 million to Labor to help create, better understand, and provide training for jobs within the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries, (commonly referred to as “green jobs.”

Labor Has Focused Its Green Jobs Efforts Largely on Job Training

Of the $595 million identified by Labor as having been appropriated or allocated specifically for green jobs activities since 2009, approximately $501 million went toward efforts with training and support services as their primary objective, with much of that funding provided by the Recovery Act, Because the Act directed federal agencies to spend funds quickly and prudently, Labor implemented a number of high-investment green jobs efforts simultaneously. As a result, in some cases, Recovery Act training programs were initiated prior to a full assessment of the demand for green jobs, which presented challenges for grantees, While Laborís internal agencies initially communicated with each other and with other federal agencies after the Recovery Act was passed, most Recovery Act grants have ended or are winding down.

Selected Grantees Broadly Defined Green Jobs and Generally Added Green Elements to Existing Training Programs

Labor created its green jobs definitional framework to provide local flexibility, and grantees GAO interviewed broadly interpreted Laborís framework to include any job that could be linked, directly or indirectly, to a beneficial environmental outcome. Laborís training data show most participants were trained in construction or manufacturing. While the findings of GAO site visits are not generalizable, all grantees interviewed said they had worked closely with local employers to align their training program with the green skills needs of local employers. Most grantees GAO interviewed also said they had incorporated green elements into existing training programs aimed at traditional skills, such as teaching weatherization, as part of a carpentry training program.

Outcomes of Green Jobs Training Remain Uncertain, with Grantees Citing Implementation Challenges

The outcomes of Laborís green job training programs remain uncertain, in part because data on final outcomes were not yet available for about 40 percent of grantees, as of the end of 2012. Analysis of grantees with final outcome data shows they collectively reported training slightly more individuals than they had projected, but job placements were at 55 percent of the target. Training-related job placement rates remain unknown because Laborís Office of Inspector General (OIG) found these data unreliable. Grantees GAO interviewed were generally positive about Laborís green job training programs, but most said they had faced challenges during implementation, including: (1) a lack of reliable green jobs labor market information, (2) insufficient time to meet grant requirements, (3) knowledge gaps surrounding green skills and changing energy policies, and (4) difficulty placing participants into green jobs, primarily due to the overall poor economy.

Labor Has Assisted and Monitored Grantees, but Has Provided Limited Guidance on Outcome Documentation Requirements

Labor has provided technical assistance and taken steps to monitor green jobs training grantees through on-site monitoring visits and quarterly reviews. During these visits and reviews, Labor officials assessed grantee performance, such as by comparing reported program outcomes, including job placements, to targeted performance levels. However, Labor provided only limited guidance on how to document reported job placements, Labor officials required grantees with lower than projected performance levels to implement corrective action plans. In addition, Labor officials said they have taken steps to improve the quality of grantee reported data, such as by forming an internal workgroup to identify ways to improve the technical assistance they provide to grantees on reporting performance outcomes.

GAO's RecommendationsBack to top

GAO recommends that Labor identify lessons learned from the green jobs training programs to enhance its ability to implement such programs in emerging industries.