Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

17048 On the Path From Education and Training to Employment: Analyzing Linked Administrative Data of Chicago's Workforce Development System to Assess Participants' Experiences and Outcomes

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 2:30 PM
Arlington (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Elizabeth Weigensberg, PhD, Senior Researcher, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Shannon Guiltinan, Researcher, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Lauren Sartain, Associate Researcher, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Matthew Stagner, PhD, Executive Director, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Robert Goerge, Research Fellow, Chapin Hall Center at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Chicago, like many cities across the United States, experienced high levels of unemployment during the recent recession and is striving to ensure their workforce development system is meeting the needs of struggling individuals seeking employment. The Chicago workforce development system is a complex network of education and workforce programs (Chapin Hall, 2010). Local policymakers and practitioners are dedicated to improving and aligning the workforce development system to meet the needs of individuals, but they have difficulty obtaining reliable data and information about participants and programs.

In this study, Chapin Hall researchers, engaged in a new workforce data and research initiative, linked individual-level administrative data from several public agencies to assess the experiences and outcomes of participants across the Chicago workforce development system. Specifically, individual-level data on students from the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and data on participants in Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs are linked with data on employment and wages. This data linkage allows researchers to establish a unique longitudinal and cross-system trajectory of education and employment experiences and outcomes.

This study aims to answer the following research questions about CPS students and WIA participants: What are their program experiences? What are their respective education and employment outcomes?

This study uses descriptive and longitudinal analysis to assess the experiences and education and employment outcomes of CPS students and WIA participants. The data used in this study includes CPS student transcript data, WIA services data, and employment wage data. These data are linked using probabilistic matching. The sample of CPS students includes all high students from 2004 through 2010. The sample of WIA participants includes everyone enrolled in WIA between 2007 and 2010 in Chicago.

Results demonstrate some promising findings regarding education yet show declines in regard to employment outcomes during the recent economic downturn. CPS students increased four-year graduation rates, from 62% in 2004 to 67% in 2008. Regarding positive post-graduation outcomes, increasing percentages of students, 54% in 2008, enrolled in post-secondary education within one-year of graduation. Among enrolled students in 2009, 18% completed at least one career and technical education (CTE) course, while 20% of all graduates completed a CTE program. In regard to WIA, the system increased capacity during the recent recession, with greater numbers of participants enrolling in program years 2008 through 2010. Additionally, increasing percentages of WIA participants, up to 45%, stayed in WIA for longer than one year. Findings regarding the employment outcomes reflect the impact of the recession, with lower percentages of WIA exiters obtaining employment, decreased wages, and declines in employment retention.

Given the emphasis on promoting employment and increased capacity to serve job seekers during a time of economic downturn, this research on participants' program experiences and outcomes informs policymakers, administrators, and practitioners when making decisions about dedicating limited resources and developing strategies to ensure the workforce development system is promoting positive education and employment outcomes. Future research will study factors related to positive outcomes and include additional workforce development programs to assess trajectories and outcomes over time and across programs.

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