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Job Training and Community College Administrators Say Supportive Services are Key to Program Completion, but are Not Adequately Funded

New survey of training providers finds that lack of child care seen as the greatest unmet need for women clients, and as a key reason many participants do not complete workforce development programs

Washington, DC—A new survey released today by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), reports that 97 percent of job training administrators say that supportive services—such as child care, housing, emergency cash, and transportation assistance—are important or very important in helping participants complete job or skills training programs, but programs lack funding to offer enough services to meet demand. Although virtually all job training administrators want to provide more supportive services, nearly two-thirds say they are unlikely to expand their services in the near future, with funding constraints listed as the top reason.
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Dec 13, 2016

Washington, DC—A new survey released today by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), reports that 97 percent of job training administrators say that supportive services—such as child care, housing, emergency cash, and transportation assistance—are important or very important in helping participants complete job or skills training programs, but programs lack funding to offer enough services to meet demand. Although virtually all job training administrators want to provide more supportive services, nearly two-thirds say they are unlikely to expand their services in the near future, with funding constraints listed as the top reason.

The report, which analyzes survey responses from 168 programs, finds that completion rates are considerably higher in shorter programs, which provide more supportive services. Of the administrators who say their participants’ supportive service needs are met well or extremely well, 62 percent have completion rates of at least 80 percent in their programs, more than double the rate of programs who say their participants’ needs are not met well (30 percent).

“As the nation works toward increasing the proportion of adults with postsecondary credentials and degrees, we must place more emphasis on access to supportive services,” said IWPR Associate Director of Research Cynthia Hess, Ph.D. “Better access to these services can help adults, and especially those with children, succeed in workforce development programs, and ultimately attain stable and sustaining careers.”

The report, Supportive Services in Workforce Development Programs: Administrator Perspectives on Availability and Unmet Needs, found differing areas of unmet need among men and women in job training programs. Administrators most often pointed to child care as one of the greatest unmet needs for women (66 percent) and emergency cash and housing assistance as among the greatest needs for men (both at 50 percent). Nearly one in three (32 percent) said domestic violence services was one of the greatest unmet needs for women participants.

Women’s success in job training programs is disproportionately affected by family caregiving responsibilities. Nearly two in three administrators with a majority-female program say that child care is one of the main reasons for not completing a program, which is a considerably higher share than those with a majority of male participants (38 percent). Majority-female program administrators are also much more likely to say that problems with work hours or scheduling is one of the most common reasons participants do not finish their programs (52 compared with 38 percent).

The share of participants who receive supportive services from any source varies by service type.  Case management is the service most commonly received, followed by financial education and counseling, transportation assistance, and help accessing public benefits.

Community and technical college administrators report lower rates of supportive service receipt and lower program completion rates than other community-based programs, and are twice as likely to say that financial considerations, problems with work hours, and scheduling conflicts are one of the most common obstacles for participants to complete the program. For child care assistance, however, community colleges provide better access to supports than other community-based programs.

The survey found that strong partnerships with other organizations were associated with higher completion rates. In addition to building and strengthening these partnerships, the report includes recommendations for administrators, researchers, funders, and policymakers for incorporating supportive services in job training programs.

“Our survey found that community colleges, in particular, need to develop strong partnerships with social support providers and public benefits systems to ensure that students can sustain their studies and achieve the earnings gains that come with quality workforce credentials and degrees,” said IWPR Vice President and Executive Director Barbara Gault, Ph.D.

This report is a part of IWPR’s Job Training Success Project, funded by the Walmart Foundation, which includes a research review of the role of supportive services in training success, a survey of nearly 2,000 job training program participants, and an analysis of promising practices in providing supportive services. The project seeks to improve knowledge about supports that enable women and men to receive the training they need to obtain better-paying jobs that provide economic security for themselves and their families.

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The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts and communicates research to inspire public dialogue, shape policy, and improve the lives and opportunities of women of diverse backgrounds, circumstances, and experiences.

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