State’s Job Training Program Questioned

The effectiveness of the state’s $52 million job training program has been called into question after auditors found regional job training centers across the state were inflating their numbers to hit strict performance measures and keep their federal funding, reports the Tennessean.
Since the recession began in 2008, the state’s 13 local workforce training centers have been faced with a major challenge: Federal performance measures continue to rise, but high unemployment has led many dispirited workers to give up on job searches and leave their training programs voluntarily.
State auditors say the training centers — which provide training and other assistance to out-of-work adults, displaced workers and youths looking for jobs — responded to this challenge by padding their statistics.
According to an audit by the state comptroller released last month, the training centers failed to remove people who didn’t find jobs in a timely manner or continue their training. By doing so, the training centers, which are operated by either nonprofit groups or local government agencies, kept their statistics up and avoided the prospect of losing their federal funding.
.,,,The audit found that 29 percent of the randomly selected participants were not removed from the system. Some participants lingered in the program for as long as five years.
“Based on our inquiries, LWIAs (local workforce investment areas) kept participants who did not successfully complete the program in the (database) for years to show that these participants were still active in the program and thereby to avoid reporting those participants as unsuccessful exits from the program,” the audit stated.
“The program director at one LWIA told us that this has been the practice of LWIAs due to strict and unachievable performance measures.”
The audit did not specify which of the 13 training centers was engaged in the practice of manipulating its performance numbers. Brian Clark, executive director for the Nashville Career Advancement Center, which is the regional training program for Davidson, Rutherford, Wilson and Trousdale counties, said the training centers face a tough predicament.
The Nashville Career Advancement Center has regularly been achieving its own performance measures for job placement, retention and average annual salary, but Clark acknowledged the poor job climate has made its work more difficult. Clark said the challenge is to keep an out-of-work person engaged in the training program at a time when jobs are scarce.
The training program primarily focuses on low-earning, low-skilled workers. For instance, the 13 regional programs must help those they successfully place in jobs maintain cumulative average annual earnings of $13,700. Last year, 28,088 people used the state’s workforce development program.

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