Tuning In to Local Labor Markets

Sheila Maguire
Joshua Freely
Carol Clymer
Maureen Conway
Deena Schwartz
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Private/Public Ventures
Publication Year
Resource Type
Number of Pages

This research study examined three agencies with very different approaches to sector-focused training. The two year study followed 1,286 people who had participated in sector-focused training to study if the training made a significant difference in obtaining consistent employment, wages, or benefits for low-income, disadvantaged job seekers. Because the first year included the training, internships and job searches the most earning gains occurred in the second year. In the first year, the participants earned 18% more than members of the control group. The second year, this margin increased to 29%. This report compares the commonalities and challenges of the three agencies. The agencies used a mix of strategies and also a mix of both public and private funding sources. The results were positive for increased employment, wages, and benefits for the participants within the two years of the study.

What the experts say

This detailed research is the promised follow-up to the brief article published by Public/Private Ventures last year, “Job Training that Works: Findings from the Sectoral Employment Impact Study” . The research study tests the approach of sectoral training in which basic skills, job readiness, and technical training are combined into one workforce training program focused on a particular sector such as construction, medical billing, or computer repair.

Three very different non-profit organizations providing sectoral training in three different locations agreed to randomly assign their accepted applicants into two groups;one would receive sectoral training and one would not. The variation in approach and length of time of the three programs allows educators to see models of how their own new programs might be developed. Public/Private Ventures, with funding from the Mott Foundation, then analyzed the two groups as well as many subgroups over a two-year period to determine the advantages of sectoral training. Although the study does not compare sectoral training with generic literacy or workforce training, it does provide detailed information on the impact of sectoral training.

In addition to reporting the results of the experimental research study, it also included qualitative data about the three non-profit organizations providing the training. Among the aspects discussed were the flexibility of the organizations in changing their programs to meet participants’ and employers’ need, provision of support for the trainee, relatively long-term and intensive training programs, design of their training programs so that completers achieve external qualifications and certifications, and close working relationships with employers and unions.

The report provides an excellent executive summary for those who do not want to read the entire research report. Since this is a research report, professional development programs on how to provide sectoral training would have to be found elsewhere. The report suggests follow-up research directions for researchers. The endnotes provide a useful bibliography of references related to the study.

The theoretical base is functional context education. Thomas G. Sticht has written most extensively about the effectiveness of combining literacy and workforce training* which results in better general literacy levels than generic literacy instruction. This study tests the effectiveness of sector training or functional context education.

   *Stitch, Thomas G. (2003). Functional context Education (FCE) Part 1: New Interest in FCE Theory and Principles for Integrating Basic Skills and Work Skills.