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These Job-Training Programs Work, and May Show Others the Way

  • October 03, 2022

One of his colleagues, Aaliyah Morgan, an emerging talent program manager, dropped out of high school and endured stints of homelessness. But she persevered, earned her high school degree and found her way to a Year Up program in 2016, which led to an internship at JPMorgan Chase.

Ms. Morgan graduated with a business skill in anti-money laundering analysis, but she said more important were the counseling, coaching and confidence building at Year Up and JPMorgan Chase. “It gave me the self esteem to feel that I could actually fit into a place where I never thought I could,” she said.

There is a growing track record of success for programs that are attuned to the hiring needs of business but go well beyond teaching technical skills. The older, larger organizations that evolved over the years include Year Up, Per Scholas, NPower and Project Quest. More recent entries showing strong results include Merit America and Pursuit.

Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard University, was the lead author in a 2020 study of the comprehensive programs, which included Year Up, Per Scholas and Project Quest. Such programs, they concluded, delivered lasting wage gains of 11 percent to 40 percent.

“There are very valuable lessons here for the government to improve its programs,” Dr. Katz said.

Applying those lessons on a broader scale is the purpose of the government Good Jobs Challenge grants.

“This is a significant commitment of resources, and there will be a lot of eyes on the results,” said Maria Flynn, chief executive of Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit that will identify and share best practices among the grantees. “That will really influence what is proposed and funded going forward.”

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