Tailoring Job Training Programs for Hispanics
Many Hispanic families lack economic security; in 2017, just over one-quarter of Hispanic children lived in poverty. One route out of poverty and toward improved economic security is via stable parental employment and earnings obtained through job training. For those who study or serve low-income Hispanic families, it is important to understand whether, when, and how job training programs can improve these families’ economic security.
What do we know about the effectiveness of job training programs?
There is mixed evaluation evidence about the effectiveness of job training for low-income individuals. Indeed, a prominent observer of, and participant in, these evaluations has summarized the evidence as follows: “The U.S. literature suggests that zero is sometimes, but not always, a good summary of the impact of training programs” (McCall et al., 2016). Although there are often meaningful impacts on credential attainment and educational progress, evidence finds that these favorable impacts translate into small or no labor market impacts (e.g., McConnell et al., 2016; Martinson et al., 2016).
Some recent job training programs, however, show evidence of positive and large impacts on employment and earnings. One clear example comes from Abt Associates’ recent evaluation of Year Up, a national training program for urban young adults ages 18–24 with a high school diploma or equivalent. Participants in Year Up reported sustained impacts of more than $1,500 in earnings per quarter (Fein & Hamadyk, 2018). Evaluations of some other programs also show consistent but smaller impacts of roughly $500 per quarter (e.g., Schaberg, 2017).
Why haven’t these programs been more successful?
First, many of the job training programs evaluated are very short in duration (well under six months). This may not be enough time to provide the necessary education and adequately improve job skills to qualify trainees for well-paying, high-quality jobs. Instead, these job training programs target jobs that are attainable given the short training duration—jobs that typically pay little more than unskilled labor. Second, many job training programs fail to directly address non-job-related factors that may keep people unemployed or underemployed. For example, working part-time (instead of full-time) is sometimes—though not always—due to deeper issues, such as an unstable family situation, lack of reliable or affordable child care, lack of basic reading and math skills, substance abuse, disability, or mental health issues. Many job training programs have difficulty ameliorating these issues.
What do we know about program impacts on Hispanics?
Knowledge about program impacts on Hispanics is limited, in part because Hispanics have not historically been a focus of job training program evaluations. Job training programs have not explicitly targeted Hispanics, nor have they been tailored to be culturally responsive to Hispanic populations’ needs. In addition, there have not been attempts to specifically target evaluations in areas with high proportions of Hispanics, further limiting the inclusion of Hispanics in job training program evaluations. As a result, few of the broader evaluation studies are large enough to estimate separate impacts for Hispanics. However, the limited evidence available suggests that impacts for Hispanics might be similar to impacts for other low-income trainees (e.g., McConnell et al., 2016).
Some current job training programs are now in industries with a large Hispanic presence, such as nursing and other health care professions. A study involving larger numbers of Hispanics (i.e., Hispanic employees in these industries) would allow for targeted analyses of impacts on Hispanics; some ongoing larger evaluations may be in a position to incorporate this focus in the near future.
What should be the goals of job training programs for Hispanics?
Low-income Hispanic parents—especially fathers—are employed at high rates (Wildsmith et al., 2018) and tend to have stable earnings (Gennetian et al., 2015). Therefore, instead of simply focusing on job entry, a job training program targeting Hispanics might aim to get workers into better jobs—jobs with higher hourly wages, more (and more consistent) hours, better benefits, and better working conditions.
Low-income Hispanic workers hold jobs with low hourly wages, nonstandard (i.e., outside of 9:00 am–5:00 pm) and unpredictable work hours, and limited benefits (Crosby & Mendez, 2017; Wildsmith et al., 2018). Getting low-income Hispanic workers into better-paying, higher-quality jobs could improve their outcomes, especially if those jobs offer more autonomy and flexibility, standard and predictable hours, and better benefits and workplace supports for integrating work and family life. This goal is in line with programs that operate in the career pathways framework. Accordingly, the job training field aims to understand more about getting workers into better jobs, which may be particularly useful for low-income Hispanic families.
Designing job training programs for Hispanics
When designing or evaluating job training programs for Hispanics, it is important to consider the particular needs of this culturally and linguistically diverse population. Language is an obvious consideration: Job training programs for Hispanics might consider bilingual facilitators, as well as program components designed to improve English language skills for English language learner trainees. Programs can reference this resource to make sure they develop and deliver a culturally appropriate training (see Lopez et al., 2017).
Given the high levels of employment among low-income Hispanics, programs must consider whether and how to disrupt existing career pathways in order to improve job quality and economic security. Employed workers may need to leave their current jobs to participate in job training, which might lead to better prospects. Supports around job training programs should consider this possibility.
Programs should also consider family context. Low-income Hispanic parents are more likely than non-Hispanic low-income parents to be partnered (i.e., married or cohabiting) (Turner et al., 2015). What does this mean for job training programs? Should they target mothers, fathers, or both parents? Supporting employment for parents also has implications for child care. Should job training programs provide child care support? Job training programs may consider a more family-level approach to services.
Clearly, much work remains to understand the utility of job training programs for Hispanics, making this an area of great opportunity for future research to support the implementation of effective programming for Hispanics to increase family self-sufficiency and reduce child poverty.
Crosby, C., & Mendez, J. (2017). How Common Are Nonstandard Work Schedules among Low-Income Hispanic Parents of Young Children? Bethesda, MD: National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families.
Fein, D., & Hamadyk, J. (2018). Bridging the Opportunity Divide for Low-Income Youth: Implementation and Early Impacts of the Year Up Program, OPRE Report #2018-65. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Gennetian, L. A., Rodrigues, C., Hill, H. D., & Morris, P. (2015). Income Instability in the Lives of Hispanic Children. Bethesda, MD: National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families.
Lopez, M., Hofer, K., Bumgarner, E., & Taylor, D. (2017). Developing Culturally Responsive Approaches to Serving Diverse Populations: A Resource Guide for Community-Based Organizations. Bethesda, MD: National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families.
Martinson, K., Williams, J., Needels, K., Peck, L., Moulton, S., Paxton, N … Brown-Lyons, M. (2016). The Green Jobs and Health Care Impact Evaluation: Findings from the Impact Study of Four Training Programs for Unemployed and Disadvantaged Workers. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.
McCall, B., Smith, J., & Wunsch, C. (2016). Government-Sponsored Vocational Education for Adults. In Handbook of the Economics of Education (Vol. 5, pp. 479-652). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier.
McConnell, S., Fortson, K., Rotz, D., Schochet, P., Burkander, P., Rosenberg, L., … & D’Amico, R. (2016). Providing Public Workforce Services to Job Seekers: 15-Month Impact Findings on the WIA Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs. Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research.
Schaberg, K. (2017). Can Sector Strategies Promote Longer-Term Effects? Three-Year Impacts from the WorkAdvance Demonstration. New York, NY and Oakland, CA: MDRC.
Turner, K., Guzman, L., Wildsmith, E., & Scott, M. (2015). The Complex and Varied Households of Low-Income Hispanic Children. Bethesda, MD: National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families.
Wildsmith, E., Ramos-Olazagasti, M., & Alvira-Hammond, M. (2018). The Job Characteristics of Low-Income Hispanic Parents. Bethesda, MD: National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families.