Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: An Evaluation of America Work's (NYC's Employment Service Provider) Contextualized Literacy Program

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 10:35 AM
Orchid A (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Swati Desai, University at Albany - SUNY, Andrew Silverstein, City University of New York and Ashley Putnam, America Works
Do classes that combine basic literacy and job skill training improve the employment and earnings of public assistance recipients who do not have a high school diploma or equivalency and reduce their time on public assistance?

An evaluation of America Work’s (NYC’s Employment Service Provider) Contextualized Literacy program

Starting in 2014, NYC’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) which provides public assistance and employment services to cash assistance applicants and recipients through employment vendors, began mandating that employment vendors provide contextualized literacy (CL) programs for participants witout a high school diploma or equivalency. America Works (AW), an HRA employment vendor, has integrated a CL program that combines workforce development with literacy classes in its employment program for participants without a high school diploma. AW’s CL program provides customer service training and food production classes that prepares attendees to take a test for a food handlers’ certificate.  In addition, AW also offers Common Core Achieve, which covers 9-12 grade skills and prepares participants to take HSE test.

Evaluating AW’s CL program is of interest because programs combining workforce development and literacy are a focus of national and local policy.  In the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Congress singled out institutions that help clients address employment (like AW) as amongst the most promising sites for effective training programs.  In NYC alone, 1.5 million people lack a high school diploma. New York’s Career Pathways plan refocuses the goal of government agencies and contractors from job placement to career development with a focus on job training and education for low wageworkers in addition to job placement.

Past research shows that combined employment and job training services results in better outcomes than either service alone.  Additionally, research on CL like programs is limited but positive. A 2013 review of healthcare training programs for TANF recipients found that CL and similar programs “can lead to significant positive impacts on employment and earnings.”

This paper will evaluate a CL program within a job service program. The study will compare the group who is CL eligible and offered programing (treatment group) to a cohort who were eligible but were not offered programing (control group). Impact variables that will be used to compare two groups are: job placement and wages, job retention, improvement in earnings and use of cash assistance.   The treatment group will include those participants who were eligible for CL from Sept. to Dec. 2014 and the control group chosen from Jan. to Apr. 2014 will include those who were CL eligible but not offered CL programs. Additionally, CL eligible participants will be surveyed for a qualitative analysis of the program.

Early results show that the treatment group is more likely find employment and have higher earnings. These positive results suggest that CL programming in a job service program could benefit Public Assistance recipients, helping them move towards self-sufficiency. 

Swati Desai, Ph.D. Senior Fellow, Rockefeller Institute of Govt., SUNY

Andrew Silverstein, Research Assistant, CUNY, The Graduate Center

Ashley Putnam, Fellowship Director, America Works