For many American workers, it has been difficult to find employment in jobs that provide a living wage, opportunities for career advancement, or economic mobility—especially for workers without college degrees. Rising pay inequality has reinforced significant and persistent racial gaps in earnings stemming from structural barriers to opportunity faced by people of color in the US job market.
In the face of rising income inequality over the past several decades, policy makers and workforce development organizations have prioritized the ability of support workers to access high-quality jobs. Regional employment programs, which train job seekers for employment in specific industries that are considered to have strong labor demand and career growth opportunities, offer a promising route to high-wage jobs for those workers , who may face barriers to employment, usually those without a college degree. But rigorous research is necessary to truly understand how effective these programs are and the mechanism through which they produce effects.
J-PAL North America’s new publication, “Regional Employment Programs as a Path to Quality Jobs: Lessons from Random Assessment,” summarizes an academic paper that examines four randomized assessments of regional employment programs and their Describes the mechanism behind success. This analysis shows that regional employment programs consistently generate large, positive effects on worker employment and earnings. These benefits are largely driven by workers gaining access to high-paying and high-quality jobs after participating in training programs.
The magnitude and consistency of the findings point to regional employment programs as a promising tool to advance worker prosperity. Major findings include:
- Increase in income: Regional employment programs generate substantial income growth in the year following the completion of training. These earnings remain at evaluation with evidence of long-term follow-up. Income gains from high-performing regional employment programs have been found to be greatest in evaluations of US training and employment services programs.
- Higher levels of credential and certificate attainment: Regional employment programs substantially enhance training and career services and lead to the attainment of educational certificates and certificates, particularly those related to the target sectors.
- Pathways to New Jobs: Earning gains from access to regional employment programs are driven by an increased share of participants working in high-paying jobs after training, not by increased employment rates or increased working hours. This is likely to be from the participants seeking employment in the targeted sectors.
The most effective regional employment training programs include a combination of the following: Key Features: Advance screening of applicants on basic skills and motivation; Leading to vocational skills training and an industry-recognized certification targeting high-paying sectors; career readiness training (sometimes called soft skills); wraparound support services for participants; and strong relationships with employers.
This publication is intended to serve as a resource for policymakers, practitioners and researchers working to reduce barriers to high-opportunity employment, improve income for workers, and reduce the development of wage inequality. are doing. To that end, J-PAL North America will host discussion of this publication, other research on regional employment programs, and key open questions on Wednesday, March 9 at 2:30 p.m. ET on WorkRise, an Urban Institute initiative. partnering with. Speakers include Juke Hsu, co-founder and CEO of Pursuit Fellowship, a regional employment program; Maurice Jones, chief executive officer of OneTen, an organization whose mission is to hire, promote, and advance 1 million black Americans into family-raising careers; and Lawrence Katz, Elizabeth Ellison Professor of Economics at Harvard University and co-scientific director of J-Pal North America. Panelists will provide insight into the role of regional employment programs in improving economic mobility and closing racial equity gaps in the labor market.
The publication also outlines ongoing questions about how to effectively scale up programs, support displaced and depressed workers, and provide economic mobility to workers across the country. J-PAL North America is trying to answer these and other important questions on support workers through its Worker Prosperity Initiative. Readers interested in discussing evidence review, pursuing opportunities to rigorously assess questions related to regional employment and worker prosperity, or to learn more about J-Pal North America’s labor function North America website, subscribe to the Worker Prosperity Initiative newsletter. , or contact J-PAL North America Labor Sector Lead Toby Chaiken.
J-PAL North America is a regional office of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), a global research center based at MIT.