Youth Job Training:

Problems Measuring Attainment of Employment Competencies

HRD-87-33: Published: Feb 11, 1987. Publicly Released: Feb 11, 1987.

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William J. Gainer
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GAO reviewed employment competencies for youth in job training programs that local service delivery areas (SDA) provided, specifically the: (1) extent and nature of youth competency systems; and (2) competency attainment data states used to judge local program performance.

GAO found that, to evaluate employment competencies, the Department of Labor grouped them into three areas: (1) pre-employment and work maturity skills needed to find and hold a job; (2) basic education skills; and (3) job skills for specific occupations. Although states use national standards to evaluate local performance, they can adjust the standards to account for differences in competency systems. This makes less comprehensive programs appear more successful than those that provide training that includes basic education and is costlier and more difficult for trainees to complete. Although Labor has proposed establishing a separate standard for employment competencies, it does not believe that it has the data it needs to set such a standard. GAO believes that a separate standard might increase the emphasis on improving the employability skills of youth rather than just placing them in jobs.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Since Congress is no longer considering legislation to require a separate competency standard, this recommendation, which was contingent on such legislative action, is no longer applicable.

    Matter: If Congress chooses to require a separate competency standard, it should apply the standard to all youths who attain competencies and amend the Job Training Partnership Act to enable Labor to collect the data necessary to establish and develop an adjustment methodology for such a standard.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO recommended that Labor, in rewarding good program performance, adjust for differences among local programs in the services provided to youth and their criteria for success. Based on the GAO analysis, Labor went beyond the GAO recommendation and required all programs to provide more substantial services.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should: (1) recommend that states adjust the positive termination rate and the cost-per-positive-termination standards for youth programs to compensate for differences in SDA competency systems; and (2) provide technical assistance to help states make these adjustments. The Secretary should also advise the states that the following adjustments are needed: (1) higher positive termination rates for SDA that offer only preemployment/work maturity competency training; (2) higher costs-per-positive-termination for SDA that offer more costly training; and (3) lower positive termination rates for SDA that have more stringent criteria for reporting positive competency terminations to the state than for SDA that have less stringent criteria.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor


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