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Training, employment, and education

Multiple employment and training programs: providing information on colocating services and consolidating administrative structures could promote efficiencies

Why Area Is Important

Federally funded employment and training programs play an important role in helping job seekers obtain employment. In fiscal year 2009, 47 programs spent about $18 billion to provide services, such as job search and job counseling, to program participants. Most of these programs are administered by the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services (HHS).

GAO has previously issued reports on the number of programs that provide employment and training services and overlap among them. In the 1990s, GAO issued a series of reports that identified program overlap and possible areas of resulting inefficiencies. In 2000 and 2003, GAO identified programs for which a key program goal was providing employment and training assistance and tracked the increasing number of programs. GAO recently updated information on these programs, found overlap among them, and examined potential duplication among three selected large programs—HHS's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Department of Labor's Employment Service and Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Adult programs.

What GAO Found

Forty-four of the 47 federal employment and training programs GAO identified, including those with broader missions such as multipurpose block grants, overlap with at least one other program in that they provide at least one similar service to a similar population. Some of these overlapping programs serve multiple population groups. Others target specific populations, most commonly Native Americans, veterans, and youth. Even when programs overlap, they may have meaningful differences in their eligibility criteria or objectives, or they may provide similar types of services in different ways.

GAO examined the TANF, Employment Service, and WIA Adult programs for potential duplication and found they provide some of the same services to the same population through separate administrative structures. Although the extent to which individuals receive the same services from these programs is unknown due to limited data, GAO found these programs maintain parallel administrative structures to provide some of the same services, such as job search assistance, to low-income individuals (see following table). It should be noted that employment is only one aspect of the TANF program, which also provides a wide range of other services, including cash assistance. At the state level, the TANF program is typically administered by the state human services or welfare agency, while the Employment Service and WIA Adult programs are typically administered by the state workforce agency and provided through one-stop centers. Agency officials acknowledged that greater efficiencies could be achieved in delivering services through these programs, but said factors such as the number of clients that any one-stop center can serve and one-stop centers' proximity to clients, particularly in rural areas, could warrant having multiple entities provide the same services.

Selected Employment and Training Services Provided by the Employment Service, TANF, and WIA Adult Programs, Fiscal Year 2009
Selected Employment and Training Services Provided by the Employment Service, TANF, and WIA Adult Programs, Fiscal Year 2009

Note: DOL = Department of Labor

Colocating services and consolidating administrative structures may increase efficiencies and reduce costs, but implementation can be challenging. Some states have colocated TANF employment and training services in one-stop centers where Employment Service and WIA Adult services are provided. Three states—Florida, Texas, and Utah—have gone a step further by consolidating the agencies that administer these programs, and state officials said this reduced costs and improved services, but they could not provide a dollar figure for cost savings. States and localities may face challenges to colocating services, such as limited office space. In addition, consolidating administrative structures may be time consuming and any cost savings may not be immediately realized.

An obstacle to further progress in achieving greater administrative efficiencies is that little information is available about the strategies and results of such initiatives. In addition, little is known about the incentives that states and localities have to undertake such initiatives and whether additional incentives are needed.


Actions Needed

To facilitate further progress by states and localities in increasing administrative efficiencies in employment and training programs, GAO recommended in 2011 that the Secretaries of Labor and HHS work together to develop and disseminate information that could inform such efforts. This should include information about state initiatives to consolidate program administrative structures and state and local efforts to colocate new partners, such as TANF, at one-stop centers. Information on these topics could address challenges faced, strategies employed, results achieved, and remaining issues. As part of this effort, Labor and HHS should examine the incentives for states and localities to undertake such initiatives, and, as warranted, identify options for increasing such incentives. Labor and HHS agreed that they should develop and disseminate this information. HHS noted that it lacks legal authority to mandate increased TANF-WIA coordination or create incentives for such efforts.

To the extent that colocating services and consolidating administrative structures reduce administrative costs, funds could potentially be available to serve more clients or for other purposes. For the TANF program alone, GAO estimated that states spent about $160 million to administer employment and training services in fiscal year 2009. According to a Department of Labor official, the administrative costs for the WIA Adult program were at least $56 million in program year 2009. Officials told GAO they do not collect data on the administrative costs associated with the Employment Service program, as they are not a separately identifiable cost in the legislation. Labor officials said that, on average, the agency spends about $4,000 for each WIA Adult participant who receives training services. In periods of budgetary constraints, it is all the more important that resources are used effectively. Depending on the reduction in administrative costs associated with colocation and consolidation, these funds could be used to train potentially hundreds or thousands of additional individuals.

Framework for Analysis

The information contained in this analysis is based on GAO products listed under the "Related GAO Products" tab. GAO did not conduct a legal review in order to determine the programs, their requirements, or goals.

Area Contact

For additional information about this area, contact Andrew Sherrill at (202) 512-7215 or

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