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Emerging Findings from the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) Evaluation. Gayle Hamilton, MDRC www.mdrc.org Workforce Innovations 2005 Conference U.S. Department of Labor and the American Society for Training and Development Philadelphia, PA July 13, 2005. What is ERA?.

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Emerging Findings from the

Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) Evaluation

Gayle Hamilton, MDRC

www.mdrc.org

Workforce Innovations 2005 Conference

U.S. Department of Labor and the American Society for Training and Development

Philadelphia, PA

July 13, 2005


What is era
What is ERA?

  • National study of a variety of programs aiming to promote stable employment and/or wage progression among low-wage workers

  • Conceived and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with support from the U.S. Department of Labor

  • Multi-site: 15 different tests in 8 states

  • Multi-year: 1999-2008

  • Evaluation being conducted by MDRC


Era evaluation highlights
ERA: Evaluation Highlights

  • Evaluation components:

    • Impact analysis

    • Implementation analysis

    • Benefit-cost analysis

  • Random assignment of eligible individuals in each site

    • ERA group: Recruited for (in some sites, required to participate in) ERA program

    • Control group: Does not receive ERA services; other available services vary from site to site

  • Will follow individuals in both groups for at least three years; differences between the two groups will indicate the ERA programs’ effectiveness


What do we know about efforts to foster retention and advancement among low wage workers
What Do We Know about Efforts to Foster Retention and Advancement Among Low-Wage Workers?

  • Large knowledge base about how to move people into work, but…

  • Little knowledge about effective retention and advancement strategies.

    • Prior research (primarily the PESD study) found few effects on labor market outcomes.

    • Studies of programs that have provided income supplements to low-wage workers show evidence of increased job retention rates.

    • Few, if any, proven strategies to promote advancement for low-wage workers.


Era project sites 15 different tests in 8 states
ERA Project Sites: 15 Different Tests in 8 States Advancement Among Low-Wage Workers?


Era approaches and targeting
ERA: Approaches and Targeting Advancement Among Low-Wage Workers?

  • Diverse program models, mostly serving current and former TANF clients

  • Program goals: three categories of programs

    • Advancement-Focused: Serving working current or recent welfare recipients

    • Placement/Retention-Focused: Serving hard-to-employ groups

    • Focus on both placement/retention and advancement: Serving various groups (welfare leavers, welfare applicants, workers in specific firms, etc.)

  • Program target groups:

    • Welfare applicants/recipients

    • Those employed and on welfare

    • Those not on welfare


Era organizational structure and services
ERA: Organizational Structure and Services Advancement Among Low-Wage Workers?

  • TANF agency usually the lead

  • Workforce development/one-stop system a partner in most sites

  • Services often delivered by nonprofit organizations or community colleges, typically under contract to welfare or workforce agency

  • Services can include case management/job coaching, financial incentives, education and training, barrier removal, job development/sectoral strategies, and supportive services


Era illustration of program serving welfare applicants recipients
ERA: Illustration of Program Serving Welfare Applicants/Recipients

Features of the Texas ERA Program

  • Served TANF applicants and recipients – starting pre-placement – in Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, Houston

  • Operated by welfare department, with workforce commission

  • Job search, job readiness, and team-based case management services; post-employment stipends ($200 per month for up to 12 months for working steadily)

  • Control group members in site received pre- and some post-placement services, but no stipend


Era illustration of program serving those employed and on welfare
ERA: Illustration of Program Serving Those Employed and on Welfare

Features of the Illinois ERA Program

  • Served Chicago welfare recipients working full-time

  • Operated by a private firm under contract to the welfare department

  • Services and activities could include:

    • Coaching clients to move up in their jobs, get more hours, or get a raise

    • Assisting clients to find a better job

    • Helping clients to resolve barriers to steady work

  • Control group members in site received limited post-employment services through the welfare department


Era illustration of program serving those not on welfare
ERA: Illustration of Program Serving Those Not on Welfare Welfare

Features of the South Carolina ERA Program

  • Served former TANF recipients off welfare 6 months to 3 years in a rural 6-county area with high unemployment

  • Operated by welfare department

  • Once contact made, intensive counseling in first 30 days; career consultants develop plans, provide incentives, have monthly follow-up, and connect people with service such as job search assistance, training, and support services

  • Control group members in site did not systematically receive services


Era emerging findings
ERA: Emerging Findings Welfare

Primary Implementation Challenges:

  • Getting people to volunteer to participate, and to do so at a higher rate than they would have on their own

  • Maintaining focus on employment, as opposed to barrier removal

  • Responding to unexpected quick job loss

  • Defining advancement and determining when to focus on it

  • Changing staff roles to foster focus on career counseling and job coaching

    Early Impacts:

  • Only preliminary findings – generally for early-enrolling sample members in about two-thirds of the programs – are now available

  • Short-term impacts on employment, job retention, and earnings are mixed

  • Too early to draw any broad conclusions about effectiveness of retention and advancement services


Era possible lessons so far
ERA: Possible Lessons So Far Welfare

  • Numerous research challenges:

    • Diversity in program models, targeted populations, and extent and type of services received by control group members

    • Measurement of case management and program “participation”

  • Key challenge is getting individuals to participate

  • High “hurdle” to overcome – state welfare reform efforts may be making improvements harder to achieve

  • Much more than case management may be needed to consistently advance people with low skills

  • Need to further understand the characteristics of low-income individuals who remain employed, and where they are employed


Era current status and coming attractions
ERA: Current Status and Coming Attractions Welfare

  • Random assignment completed in all but one test – about 45,000 in study across all sites

  • Two cross-site reports published

  • Early impact report, covering four programs, will be public shortly

  • Site-specific reports for all tests, covering implementation and early impacts, issued throughout 2005 and 2006

  • Final report 2008

  • Full description of ERA and all ERA publications can be found at: www.mdrc.org


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