Executive Summary: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Workforce Programs

Executive Summary: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Workforce Programs

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama tapped Vice President Joe Biden to “lead an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.” To assist with this effort, Third Way spent the last four months working to uncover the secret sauce that makes workforce programs go from good to great. We examined hundreds of programs as we searched for unique training innovations with external validation to support their efforts.

Based on this comprehensive research, we identified seven key traits of successful programs. As policymakers work to remake the federal workforce system, it is imperative that grant programs and other federal support incent and reward these characteristics.

1. Actively Engage Local Business:

Graduates of training programs are more likely to land jobs and earn higher wages when their training is specifically designed to meet the needs of employers.

2. Use Labor Market Data to Drive Decisions:

Successful programs use labor market data and job projections to tailor training to growing industries and eliminate irrelevant programs.

3. Treat Education Like a Job:

Training programs work best when they simulate actual work conditions as closely as possible, from the topics studied to the actual learning environment.

4. Connect People to Careers:

Effective programs clarify the skills employers want for a series of progressively more advanced jobs in an industry, bringing transparency to the job market and building career tracks.

5. Provide Wrap-Around Student Services:

Successful programs provide a host of comprehensive—or “wrap-around”—support services for job seekers, from assistance with childcare and transportation to academic advising.

6. Tap Innovative Funding Sources:

Effective workforce development providers are creative in seeking funding, often tapping a diverse array of financial resources to deliver their services.

7. Embrace Evaluation:

Strong workforce development providers identify their strengths and weaknesses and constantly use data and evaluations to improve.

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