How does DEED Determine Effectiveness of Workforce Training Programs?

If Minnesota is to solve its looming workforce talent shortfall, the state’s employers will have to explore new talent pools and push for a higher workforce participation rate.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) runs or provides funding for more than 70 employment training and placement programs that assist in these efforts. For the 2018 fiscal year, DEED has allocated more than $169 million for these programs, according to a recent MinnPost article.

But, as the article notes, “not all these programs, or their outcomes, are equal, which brings up an obvious question: How does DEED measure the programs’ effectiveness?”

One way it does so, says MinnPost,

is through its Report Card, a system tracking participant enrollments, graduations, credentials received, job placement, retention and wage changes. The system then compares how the training programs increased employment, wages and credentials for participants, comparing before and after joining the training program.

The Report Card system also makes clear how the DEED-financed programs are helping the unemployed and underemployed gain industry-recognized credentials, while also meeting the demand of employers.

The most common training programs are the ones serving the unemployed, underemployed and those with multiple part-time jobs and seeking full-time opportunities. MinnPost explains:

When one of those groups completes a program, the Report Card shows the number of unemployed people who secured employment, the number of the underemployed who increased their wages and the number of part-timers who landed full-time jobs.

Pathway to Prosperity is one of DEED’s most popular employment training programs. The Report Card noted that of participants enrolled between July 2015 and June 2016, 76 percent were making $11.55 an hour. After graduating, however, they found jobs paying $13.46 per hour.

In addition,

about 55 percent of the graduates earned industry-recognized credentials that they can take from one employer to another. (Not everyone in job training programs seeks a credential, which makes the 55 percent a significant gain.)

Most graduates of DEED’s programs enter some of Minnesota’s highest-demand fields, including education, health services, public administration, and hospitality, along with manufacturing and construction.

The MinnPost article highlights the work of Avivo, a Minneapolis-based non-profit that offers career and technical education as well as chemical and mental health services:

Prior to participating in [Avivo’s] program, [Rachel Vilsack of DEED] said, only 10 percent of the participants had full-time jobs; many were unemployed or held “multiple” part-time jobs to couple together the equivalent of full-time earnings.

But after completing the program, 29 percent of the part-timers landed full-time jobs. ‘That’s, for those individuals, a quality gain, not only in their employment life but probably in their family life as well,’ she said.

The largest percentage of people who come to Avivo are on government assistance programs, like the Minnesota Family Investment Program, a welfare program for low-income families with children. “Our training completion rate is 92 percent,” Avivo President and CEO Kelly Matter told MinnPost. “It’s a very, very high completion rate for our career training and education program,” she added, which serves about 1,000 people each year.

Vilsack said that her team compares individuals participating in the DEED-funded programs — including Avivo’s — to a similar group of people who don’t participate in the employment training initiatives.

“Overwhelmingly what we see is that participants of a workforce training program see substantial earning increases and strong increases in employment,” she added. “It really suggests that program participation helps jobseekers find work quicker than they otherwise would have.”

Kelley Carlson, a former stay-at-home mom, went to Avivo to gain manufacturing skills. After completing a 12-week training course there, she got a job at Precision, Inc., in Brooklyn Center. Her experience at Avivo was vital, she told MinnPost:

‘I was hired as an assembly line production worker,’ Carlson said. ‘I told them about my soldering experience because we had gotten three weeks of hands-on soldering through the program at Avivo. My line lead decided to put me on soldering to see how I would do.’

Her performance, she said, exceeded anyone’s expectations. ‘So they bumped me up from assembly line production to assembly microscope in soldering.’ Her hourly wage also bumped up, from $11.70 to $13.77, three months into her job.