Job Corps:

Need for Better Enrollment Guidance and Improved Placement Measures

HEHS-98-1: Published: Oct 21, 1997. Publicly Released: Oct 23, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Job Corps program's recruitment and placement contractors, focusing on: (1) whether Job Corps' policy guidance regarding eligibility criteria is consistent with the legislation and regulations; (2) how the use of recruiting contractors could be improved to increase participant retention in the program; and (3) how the use of placement contractors could be improved to enhance positive outcomes.

GAO noted that: (1) Job Corps' policy guidance for 2 of the 11 eligibility criteria was ambiguous and incomplete, which has led to an eligibility determination process that fails to follow the requirements of the law and program regulations; (2) in GAO's visits to several outreach and admissions contractors, GAO found that those with higher retention rates follow procedures aimed at identifying applicants with the commitment and motivation to remain in and benefit from the program; (3) in GAO's analysis of participant characteristics, GAO identified certain characteristics significantly related to the likelihood of remaining in the program for at least 60 days; (4) the Department of Labor (DOL) could use some of these characteristics to design outreach efforts or to establish priorities among eligible applicants; (5) although Job Corps is a performance-driven program and DOL uses performance measures to make decisions on placement contractor renewal, two of the measures DOL used were not meaningful and, thus, DOL did not have the information it needed to accurately assess the performance of placement contractors; (6) placement measures held contractors responsible for placing individuals who may have received little or no benefit from the program or who demonstrated behavior that normally would be unacceptable to most employers; (7) the job-training match measure did not accurately portray the extent to which participants obtained jobs related to their vocational training because of the wide latitude placement contractors have in deciding whether a job is related to the training received and the creativity contractors used in recording the occupational titles of the jobs obtained; (8) one aspect of placement contractors' operations associated with better performance was having staff solely responsible for placing Job Corps participants; (9) seven contractors visited by GAO with high placement rates had staff solely responsible for placing Job Corps participants; (10) in contrast, four of the five contractors having lower placement rates had the same staff responsible for performing outreach and assessment as well as placement; and (11) as a result of its concern about performance, DOL has not renewed 12 of the 18 contracts with state agencies.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Policy guidance was issued and a new assessment tool was developed. This tool is to be used by admissions contractors to assist them in identifying youth who need and could benefit from the program.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that Job Corps' resources serve the most appropriate participants, the Secretary of Labor should provide clear and complete guidance on program eligibility criteria, ensuring that the guidance is consistent with the law, and provide better guidance to ensure that outreach and admissions contractors assess each applicant's capability and aspirations to complete training and attain a positive outcome.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Performance standards have been modified to focus on program graduates. Accordingly, participants who were expelled for criminal or violent behavior are no longer counted in the primary placement contractors' performance measure.

    Recommendation: Improvements are also needed to make the measures used to assess placement contractor performance more meaningful. Therefore, the Secretary of Labor should modify certain measures for placement contractors, including eliminating from the placement pool participants whom contractors realistically could not or should not be expected to place, such as participants who were expelled for criminal or violent behavior.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Office of Job Corps instituted a new system in July 1999, based on the Occupational Employment Statistics, a design established by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to DOL officials, the new system is more accurate and easier to maintain and monitor in terms of eliminating egregious matches.

    Recommendation: Improvements are also needed to make the measures used to assess placement contractor performance more meaningful. Therefore, the Secretary of Labor should modify certain measures for placement contractors, including replacing the current job-training match system with one that captures realistic information and providing guidance to regional offices to ensure that the data are accurately recorded.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor has established new performance standards for program graduates and separate lower standards (that are also reduced weight in assessing contractor performance) for non-graduates.

    Recommendation: Improvements are also needed to make the measures used to assess placement contractor performance more meaningful. Therefore, the Secretary of Labor should modify certain measures for placement contractors, including establishing separate placement performance standards for participants with different levels of program accomplishment--for example, those who completed program requirements and those who dropped out early.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

 

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