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Impact of Ready to Work Partnership Grants


  • Years after the 2008 recession, long spells of unemployment persisted.
  • Ready to Work Partnership Grants were designed to help long-term unemployed get jobs.
  • Abt conducted an implementation study and impact evaluation.
The Challenge

The Ready to Work (RTW) Partnership Grant program, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) following the 2008-2009 recession, was designed to prepare middle- to high-skilled individuals who had experienced long-term unemployment for occupations in high-growth industries. In 2014, 24 partnerships of workforce agencies, training providers, employers, and other organizations received RTW grants to provide customized employment services to long-term unemployed workers. Services included job search assistance, short- and long-term occupational training, and paid work-based training. The grant-funded programs operated from 2015-2019.

The Approach

DOL sponsored an evaluation of the RTW grant program conducted by Abt Global in partnership with MEF Associates. The evaluation includes an implementation study and an impact study of four grantee programs. The implementation study examines the design and operation of the four selected programs. The impact study uses a random assignment research design to examine the effect of the programs on educational attainment, employment, and earnings.

The Results

Findings from the implementation study detail the ways in which grantees served long-term unemployed workers, including the sustainability of grant-funded services and lessons for future programs. The study found grantees provided the services DOL specified. Some emphasized upgrading skills through occupational training, and others emphasized employment readiness skills. As the economy improved and job-ready unemployed workers found jobs, grantees served workers facing greater employment barriers. Grantees adjusted programs to better serve this population.

The impact study examines the effectiveness of four programs in increasing participants’ educational attainment and employment and earnings 18 months (interim report) and 30 months (final report and brief) after study enrollment. Overall, the study found the programs increased service receipt and credential attainment but did not detect positive impacts on employment and earnings in either follow-up period for the long-term unemployed. While a precise reason for this outcome cannot be determined, it appears that programs did not sufficiently increase service receipt beyond what was already available in the community to cause impacts large enough to be detected. Moreover, the sample sizes may have been too small to detect policy-relevant impacts.

The project also produced briefs examining how workers with a history of long-term unemployment fared during the COVID recession and examining issues related to non-response bias in the project’s participant survey.

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