oversight

Job Corps: Need for Better Enrollment Guidance and Improved Placement Measures

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-10-21.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                United States General Accounting Office

GAO             Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee
                on Human Resources, Committee on
                Government Reform and Oversight,
                House of Representatives

October 1997
                JOB CORPS
                Need for Better
                Enrollment Guidance
                and Improved
                Placement Measures




GAO/HEHS-98-1
      United States
GAO   General Accounting Office
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      Health, Education, and
      Human Services Division

      B-272492

      October 21, 1997

      The Honorable Christopher Shays
      Chairman, Subcommittee on Human Resources
      Committee on Government Reform
        and Oversight
      House of Representatives

      Dear Mr. Chairman:

      Job Corps is an employment and training program that is aimed at
      providing severely disadvantaged youths with a comprehensive array of
      services, generally in a residential setting. Job Corps is one of the few
      remaining federally administered training programs. The Department of
      Labor contracts with private and nonprofit organizations to (1) recruit and
      enroll individuals in the program, (2) operate its 109 centers throughout
      the nation, and (3) place program participants in jobs or additional
      training upon termination from the program.1 About $1 billion a year is
      appropriated for Job Corps, and it serves about 68,000 youths. However,
      about one-quarter of the participants leave the program after a short
      time—many of them expelled for disciplinary reasons.

      In your continued interest in the Job Corps program, you asked us to
      provide you with information on Job Corps recruitment and placement
      contractors. Specifically, the objectives of our study were to determine
      (1) whether Job Corps’ policy guidance regarding eligibility criteria is
      consistent with the legislation and regulations, (2) how the use of
      recruiting contractors could be improved to increase participant retention
      in the program, and (3) how the use of placement contractors could be
      improved to enhance positive outcomes.

      In carrying out our work, we met with Labor officials and reviewed
      Labor’s eligibility policy guidance in relation to applicable statutes and
      regulations. We analyzed national data on the characteristics of program
      participants and early dropouts enrolled during program year 1995.2 We
      also analyzed program retention data and placement results for each
      outreach, admission, and placement contractor during program years 1994
      and 1995 to identify contractors that had higher and lower retention or

      1
       Placement is defined as getting a job, entering the military, returning to school, or entering another
      training program.
      2
       A program year begins on July 1 of a year and ends on June 30 of the following year. A program year is
      designated by the year in which it begins. Thus, program year 1995 began on July 1, 1995, and ended on
      June 30, 1996.



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                   placement performance. From among these, we selected 14 contractors to
                   visit—2 that did only outreach and admissions, 1 that provided only
                   placement services, and 11 that performed outreach and admissions
                   functions and placement functions—to obtain detailed information on the
                   processes used to admit applicants into Job Corps and place them upon
                   their leaving the program. We also interviewed Job Corps participants at
                   three centers to learn about their experiences when they were recruited
                   for the program and to obtain their views about the enrollment process.
                   (App. I contains a more detailed discussion of our scope and
                   methodology.)


                   Job Corps’ policy guidance for 2 of the 11 eligibility criteria was
Results in Brief   ambiguous and incomplete, which has led to an eligibility determination
                   process that fails to follow the requirements of the law and program
                   regulations. Under Job Corps’ enabling act and its regulations, program
                   participants must be from an environment so characterized by cultural
                   deprivation, a disruptive homelife, or other disorienting conditions as to
                   impair the applicant’s ability to successfully participate in other education
                   and training programs. However, regarding this environmental criterion,
                   Job Corps’ Policy and Requirements Handbook (1) did not provide
                   definitions of key terms to describe “other disorienting conditions,” such
                   as “limited job opportunities,” and (2) limited eligibility to factors that do
                   not include “cultural deprivation,” an environmental factor specified in the
                   law. Further, Labor has not provided adequate guidance regarding another
                   eligibility requirement—that participants have the capability and
                   aspirations to complete and secure the full benefits of Job Corps. Without
                   complete and unambiguous guidance, outreach and admissions
                   contractors may not be enrolling those who are most appropriate, under
                   the act and regulations, for the program.

                   We used two ways to identify how outreach and admissions contractors
                   could target the recruitment and selection of participants to those more
                   likely to stay in and benefit from Job Corps. In our visits to several
                   outreach and admissions contractors, we found that those with higher
                   retention rates followed procedures aimed at identifying applicants with
                   the commitment and motivation to remain in and benefit from the
                   program. And in our analysis of participant characteristics, we identified
                   certain characteristics significantly related to the likelihood of remaining
                   in the program for at least 60 days. Labor could use some of these
                   characteristics to design outreach efforts or to establish priorities among
                   eligible applicants. In addition, this information may be useful to Labor



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             should it decide to undertake an effort to improve the retention rate for
             participants with characteristics associated with leaving the program
             within 60 days of enrollment.

             Although Job Corps is a performance-driven program and Labor uses
             performance measures to make decisions on placement contractor
             renewal, we found that two of the measures Labor used were not
             meaningful and, thus, Labor did not have the information it needed to
             accurately assess the performance of placement contractors. We found
             that the placement measure held contractors responsible for placing
             individuals who may have received little or no benefit from the program or
             who demonstrated behavior that normally would be unacceptable to most
             employers. In addition, the job-training match measure did not accurately
             portray the extent to which participants obtained jobs related to their
             vocational training because of the wide latitude placement contractors
             have in deciding whether a job is related to the training received and the
             creativity contractors used in recording the occupational titles of the jobs
             obtained.

             One aspect of placement contractors’ operations associated with better
             performance was having staff solely responsible for placing Job Corps
             participants. The seven contractors we visited that had higher placement
             rates (over 73 percent) had staff solely responsible for placing Job Corps
             participants. Most of these contractors were also responsible for managing
             Job Corps centers or had placement staff located at Job Corps centers. In
             contrast, four of the five contractors having lower placement rates had the
             same staff responsible for performing outreach and assessment as well as
             placement; none had placement staff located at the Job Corps center. In
             addition, three of the contractors we visited were state employment
             service agencies that provided services to Job Corps participants similar to
             those provided to regular employment service clients. As a result of their
             concern about performance, in the past 2 years Labor has not renewed 12
             of the 18 contracts with state employment service agencies.


             Job Corps was established as a national employment and training program
Background   in 1964 to mitigate employment barriers faced by severely disadvantaged
             youths. Job Corps enrolls youths aged 16 to 24 who are economically
             disadvantaged, in need of additional education or training, and living in




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disorienting conditions such as a disruptive homelife.3 Students may enroll
in training programs throughout the year and progress at their own pace.

Job Corps provides participants with a wide range of services, including
basic education, vocational skills training, social skill instruction,
counseling, health care, room and board, and recreation. The program
offers vocational skills training in areas such as business occupations,
automotive repair, construction trades, and health occupations.
Participation in Job Corps can lead to placement in a job or enrollment in
further training or education. It can also lead to educational achievements
such as attaining a high school diploma and skills in reading or
mathematics.

Job Corps is unique in that, for the most part, it is residential. About
90 percent of the youths enrolled each year live at Job Corps centers and
are provided services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The premise for
boarding participants is that most come from a disruptive environment
and, therefore, can benefit from receiving education and training in a
different setting in which a variety of support services are available around
the clock.

Job Corps operates in a very structured and disciplined environment. For
example, established daily routines must be followed, as must specific
rules and regulations governing such areas as acceptable dress and
behavior. Furthermore, Job Corps participants must have permission to
leave the Job Corps center grounds, and participants “earn” home leave,
which must be approved before being taken and can be denied for a
number of reasons such as failure to follow a center’s rules of conduct.
Job Corps typically employs residential staff to oversee dormitory living
and security staff for the safety and well-being of its participants. The
program recently implemented a “zero tolerance” policy for violence and
drugs. This policy includes a “one-strike-and-you’re-out” provision for the
most serious violent or criminal offenses as well as for drug violations.

Job Corps currently operates 109 centers throughout mainland United
States, Alaska and Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Most
states have at least one center, and several states have four or more




3
 Although the act includes 14- and 15-year-old youths in the age criteria, Job Corps regulations provide
that youths 14 and 15 years of age may be eligible “upon a specific determination by the program
director to enroll them.”



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centers.4 Job Corps’ nine regional directors are responsible for the
day-to-day administration of the Job Corps program at the centers within
their geographic boundaries. Private corporations and nonprofit
organizations, selected through competitive procurement, operate the
majority of the centers. However, the departments of Agriculture and
Interior directly operate 28 centers, called civilian conservation centers,
under interagency agreements.

The regional directors are also responsible for overseeing the recruitment
of youths for program participation and the placement of participants after
they leave Job Corps. Recruitment, referred to as outreach and admissions
by program managers, and placement services are provided by private
contractors, the centers, or state employment service agencies under
contract with the regional offices. During program year 1995, Job Corps
spent about $60 million on outreach and admissions as well as placement
contracts.5 This included amounts paid contractors solely for outreach and
admissions and placement services. In addition, a portion of the funding
for some Job Corps center operation contracts was specifically designated
for outreach and admissions and placement services.

Job Corps contractors are expected to meet certain levels of achievement
in order to continue to participate in the program and receive program
funding. A performance standard has been established for outreach and
admissions contractors with respect to “quotas” of male and female youths
to be enrolled (as specified in the contract), and a second standard relates
to the proportion of participants who are to remain in the program for
more than 30 days (90 percent). A third standard relates to the percentage
of participants who are eventually placed following termination from the
program (70 percent). Similarly, placement contractors are required to
meet established standards related to the percentage of participants
placed in jobs, the military, schools, or other training programs
(70 percent). Additional standards are applied to participants who are
placed in jobs. These standards relate to the percentage obtaining full-time
jobs (70 percent) and jobs directly related to the vocational training




4
 Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Wyoming have no centers. California, Kentucky, New
York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington have four or more Job
Corps centers. See Job Corps: Where Participants Are Recruited, Trained, and Placed in Jobs
(GAO/HEHS-96-140, July 17, 1996).
5
 About $8 million of this amount was for media support contracts. According to Labor, this high level
of media expenditures should be regarded as a one-time but necessary cost to counteract a decline in
Job Corps enrollments in program year 1994 and early program year 1995.



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                        received (42 percent). A fourth placement standard relates to the average
                        wage received at placement.6

                        Individuals enroll in Job Corps by submitting applications through
                        outreach and admissions contractors. The length of time students stay in
                        Job Corps can vary substantially—from 1 day to 2 years.7 In program year
                        1995, about 15 percent of the enrollees left Job Corps within 30 days of
                        entering the program and more than one-fourth left within 60 days. On the
                        average, however, students spend about 7 months in the program.
                        Students leave Job Corps for a variety of reasons, including successful
                        completion of the program objectives, voluntary resignation, disciplinary
                        termination, and being absent without leave (AWOL) for 10 consecutive
                        training days. With a few exceptions, participants terminating from Job
                        Corps are assigned to a placement contractor for assistance in finding a
                        job or enrolling in other education or training programs. Placement
                        contractors are to give priority to finding full-time, training-related jobs for
                        participants.


                        We found that Job Corps’ policy guidance on two of its eligibility criteria
Job Corps Eligibility   was ambiguous and incomplete. As a result, the program’s eligibility
Guidance Is             process was not following all the requirements of the law or program
Inadequate              regulations. The law specifies program eligibility requirements, including
                        age, economic status, educational needs, medical condition, and
                        behavioral condition—all defined in the legislation, implementing
                        regulations, or Labor policy guidance.8 Another legislative
                        requirement—living in an environment characterized by disorienting
                        conditions—has not been clearly defined in the statute, regulations, or
                        Labor’s guidance. Further, Labor has not provided adequate guidance
                        regarding the requirement that participants have the capability and
                        aspirations to complete and secure the full benefits of Job Corps.

                        Contractors are required to follow Labor’s Policy and Requirements
                        Handbook, which sets out 11 eligibility criteria for the program that all
                        participants must satisfy: age, economically disadvantaged, requires
                        additional education or training, environment, health history, behavioral


                        6
                         Because economic conditions vary by location, the standard for this measure is adjusted by a model
                        that adjusts for local conditions.
                        7
                         Job Corps participants may be enrolled in the program for an additional year to attend advanced
                        career training.
                        8
                         29 U.S.C. 1501. The law also allows the Secretary of Labor to prescribe other eligibility requirements
                        for enrollment.



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                             adjustment history, capability and aspirations to participate, legal U.S.
                             resident, child care, parental consent, and Selective Service registration
                             (see app. II).9 The first seven are specified in the law. The policy handbook
                             generally provides guidance on what is needed to meet most of these
                             criteria. For example, to be eligible under the education or training
                             criterion, an applicant must be a dropout or in need of additional
                             education, training, or related support services in order to hold meaningful
                             employment, participate in regular school work, qualify for other training,
                             or satisfy armed forces requirements. However, guidance on two of the
                             criteria (environment and capability and aspirations) is vague.


Environmental Criterion Is   One of Job Corps’ eligibility criteria specified in the law for participation
Open to Interpretation       in the program relates to environment: A participant must come from “an
                             environment so characterized by cultural deprivation, a disruptive
                             homelife, or other disorienting conditions as to substantially impair
                             prospects for successful participation in other programs providing needed
                             training, education, or assistance.” Program regulations go on to explain
                             that the disorienting condition must be one that would impair the
                             applicant’s chance of success in a nonresidential program rather than a
                             residential Job Corps program. Job Corps legislation, Labor’s program
                             regulations, and Job Corps’ policy handbook list environmental factors to
                             be considered when assessing eligibility, but these sources of program
                             guidance are not entirely consistent nor do they contain adequate
                             definitions (see table 1). With the exception of the regulatory definition of
                             disruptive homelife, program guidance does not define the factors that
                             make up the environmental criterion. In the absence of specific definitions
                             of the environmental criterion, admissions counselors applied their own
                             interpretations.




                             9
                              Three of these criteria do not apply to all applicants. For example, child care applies only to those
                             with a dependent child; parental consent, only to those who are minors; and Selective Service
                             registration, only to male applicants.



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Table 1: Comparison of Elements of
the Environmental Criterion in Job                                                                                 Labor’s policy
Corps Program Guidance               Criterion                  Statute                  Regulation                handbook
                                     Currently living in an
                                     environment
                                     characterized by
                                                                Cultural deprivation     Cultural deprivation
                                                                Disruptive home life     Disruptive home lifea Disruptive home life,
                                                                                                               unsafe,
                                                                                                               overcrowded
                                                                                                               dwelling
                                                                Other disorienting       Other disorienting        Limited job
                                                                conditions               conditions                opportunities;
                                                                                                                   disruptive
                                                                                                                   community; high
                                                                                                                   crime rates
                                     a
                                      Defined in the regulations as a homelife characterized by conditions such as (1) living in an
                                     orphanage or other institution, (2) suffering from parental or familial neglect or abuse, and
                                     (3) having parents or guardians who are chronic invalids, alcoholics, or drug addicts or have
                                     other serious health conditions.



                                     As shown in table 1, Labor includes “limited job opportunities” in its policy
                                     handbook as a disorienting condition that fulfills the environmental
                                     eligibility requirement. However, none of the sources of program guidance
                                     specifically defines this factor or gives any direction to assessment
                                     counselors to help them interpret it, nor do they explain how limited job
                                     opportunities affect the chance of success in a residential program
                                     compared to a nonresidential one. In prior Job Corps regulations, Labor
                                     included among “disruptive conditions” that could impair an applicant’s
                                     prospect to participate fully in nonresidential training “a neighborhood or
                                     community characterized by high crime rates, high unemployment rates,
                                     high school dropout rates, and similar handicaps.” Unlike the present
                                     regulations, the prior version made clear that applicants might be subject
                                     to more than one disruptive factor and that several factors in combination
                                     might satisfy this impairment criterion. Labor’s present guidance does not
                                     explain how “limited job opportunities” by themselves can satisfy this
                                     criterion. Nonetheless, limited job opportunities was the factor cited as
                                     fulfilling the environmental eligibility requirement for 92 percent of the
                                     68,000 Job Corps enrollees in program year 1995. Because admissions
                                     counselors generally indicate only one environmental factor on the Job
                                     Corps application form, we have no way of knowing how many of these
                                     participants would have met the environmental criterion had limited job
                                     opportunities not been used to fulfill the requirement.




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                                 Further, the admissions counselors we interviewed had varying
                                 interpretations of limited job opportunity. Some thought that it referred to
                                 the applicants’ lack of job skills or lack of education, whereas others
                                 thought that it referred to the economic condition of the geographic areas
                                 in which applicants resided or their being too young or lacking
                                 transportation.

                                 Cultural deprivation, another eligibility factor that could fulfill the
                                 environmental criterion, was not clearly defined—in fact, it is not even
                                 listed in Labor’s policy handbook—and was also interpreted differently by
                                 various admissions counselors. One contractor referred to persons who
                                 had never gone to a museum or the beach; another thought it applied to a
                                 situation such as raising a minority child in a nonminority family; a third
                                 referred to living in a housing project. Most admissions counselors we
                                 interviewed admitted that they had no idea what this term meant.

                                 Finally, Labor’s policy handbook restricts what can be considered under
                                 the environmental criterion, stating that to be eligible an applicant must be
                                 living in an environment characterized by

                             •   disruptive homelife; unsafe, overcrowded dwelling;
                             •   limited job opportunities; or
                             •   disruptive community; high crime rates.

                                 However, the handbook excludes cultural deprivation—specified in the
                                 statute and Labor’s own regulations—from permitted environmental
                                 factors.


Inadequate Guidance on           The Job Corps law states that to enroll in Job Corps, an applicant must,
Capability and Aspirations       after careful screening, have the present capability and aspirations to
Criterion                        complete and secure the full benefit of the program. However, in
                                 determining whether applicants meet this requirement, Labor relied
                                 primarily on an evaluation form that assesses behavior that would be
                                 expected of any and all applicants. Without more detailed guidance on the
                                 use of this criterion, the program may not always be serving those who are
                                 most likely to benefit from it. In previous work, we found that ensuring
                                 that project participants are committed to training and getting a job is a
                                 key feature of successful employment training projects.10



                                 10
                                  Employment Training: Successful Projects Share Common Strategy (GAO/HEHS-96-108, May 7,
                                 1996).



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The law does not define “capabilities and aspirations” but leaves to Labor
the tasks of defining this term and providing guidance on how it is to be
implemented. Labor has developed the “Capability and Aspirations
Assessment Tool,” which admissions counselors must complete for each
applicant (see app. III). This “tool” formulates four categories of
factors—commitment, attitude, capability, and compatibility of applicant
and program goals—that are used to assess capability and aspirations and
to demonstrate suitability for the program. Factors under commitment
include meeting scheduled appointments on time, providing requested
documents such as birth certificates, and reacting favorably to program
requirements such as following center rules and living away from home.
Attitude includes willingly responding to questions and behaving
respectfully during the interview. Capability involves obtaining
documentation that supports an applicant’s ability to benefit from the
program such as school, court, or medical records or a letter from a
former employer. Compatibility of applicant and program goals relates to
the admissions counselor’s opinion that an applicant’s expressed
goals—for example, for job placement or vocational training—can be
realistically achieved through Job Corps.

The factors specified in Labor’s assessment tool include characteristics
that if not displayed would be an appropriate basis for rejecting an
application. However, the possession of these characteristics does not
necessarily demonstrate that an applicant has the ability and motivation to
benefit from Job Corps. Job Corps outreach and admissions contractors
and regional staff whom we spoke with pointed out shortcomings in the
current approach to assessing applicants’ capability and aspirations. Staff
in one of Labor’s regional offices stated that admissions counselors have
asked for additional guidance in making better decisions on capability and
aspirations. An admissions contractor with statewide recruiting
responsibility in one state said that there is a need for a valid assessment
tool for this criterion because the current tool is inadequate. Another
contractor stated that it filled out Labor’s assessment tool because it is a
program requirement but did not use it in assessing the suitability of
applicants. One of Labor’s regional offices has started to develop a more
meaningful tool.




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                          A substantial number of Job Corps participants leave the program within a
Recruitment and           short time after enrollment—about one-fourth of program year 1995
Selection of Job Corps    participants left within 2 months. Therefore, we believed that it would be
Participants Could Be     useful to identify ways contractors could target recruitment efforts and the
                          selection of applicants to the eligible youths who are more likely to stay in
Improved                  the program and, thus, more likely to benefit from it. To determine the
                          factors that might be related to program retention, we visited a number of
                          outreach and admissions contractors to examine their practices in
                          assessing and screening applicants for the program. We also analyzed the
                          characteristics of the more than 68,000 program year 1995 participants to
                          determine the characteristics that were associated with remaining in Job
                          Corps for at least 60 days.11 In our visits, we identified several procedures
                          that distinguished outreach and admissions contractors with higher
                          retention rates from other outreach and admissions contractors. In
                          general, these procedures were aimed at identifying applicants with the
                          commitment and motivation to remain in and benefit from the program.
                          Our statistical analysis provides some information about characteristics
                          significantly related to the likelihood of remaining in the program for at
                          least 60 days that Labor could use to design outreach efforts, establish
                          priorities among applicants, or improve the retention rate for those who
                          might otherwise leave the program early.


Contractors With Higher   Of the 11 outreach and admissions contractors that we visited, those with
Retention Rates Have      higher retention rates (10 percent or fewer of their enrollees dropping out
Better Assessment         within the first 30 days) tended to have better procedures for identifying
                          applicants with the commitment and motivation to remain in and benefit
Procedures                from the program. That is, these contractors emphasized making sure that
                          applicants met the programs’ statutory eligibility criterion of having the
                          capability and aspirations to complete and secure the full benefit of the
                          program. These more-successful contractors’ procedures included
                          “commitment checks” and preenrollment tours and briefings, which gave
                          applicants a more realistic basis for deciding whether they wanted to
                          enroll. The emphasis in these programs was consistent with the finding we
                          reported in a May 1996 report on successful training programs—that a key
                          job-training strategy shared by successful programs was a focus on
                          ensuring that participants are committed to training and getting a job.12 It



                          11
                            We performed a multivariate logistic regression analysis to identify characteristics associated with
                          individuals staying in Job Corps longer (at least 60 days).
                          12
                           Employment Training: Successful Projects Share Common Strategy (GAO/HEHS-96-108, May 7,
                          1996).



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was also consistent with the opinions expressed by several regional
directors we interviewed.

The “commitment checks” contractors’ used were designed to test Job
Corps applicants’ initiative. For example, several contractors required
individuals interested in Job Corps to set up application appointments.
Admissions counselors at four contractors also mentioned that they
required applicants to arrive for their meetings dressed in proper attire;
otherwise, they had to schedule another appointment. In addition, three
admissions counselors required applicants to submit written statements of
why they wanted to participate in the program and what they hoped to
accomplish. Several admissions counselors required applicants to call
weekly between the date of application and the enrollment date to
determine the status of their application and to demonstrate their
continued interest in the program. Finally, one contractor also used a
nine-point checklist of documents that all interested persons had to
acquire before they set up their application appointment.

Some outreach and admissions contractors considered preenrollment
tours and briefings to be extremely useful, although they were not
practical in every situation. They provided applicants with a firsthand
opportunity to obtain a thorough understanding of Job Corps rules and
requirements, observe the living conditions, erase false expectations, and
determine whether they were suited for regimented life. In some instances,
these preenrollment briefings were given prior to application while others
took place afterward. For example, one contractor required that all
interested individuals attend a prearranged tour and briefing. After taking
the tour, attending the briefing, and participating in a question and answer
session, those still interested had to set up an appointment to complete an
application. Another contractor required potential enrollees to take a tour
after the application process. Following the tour, applicants attended a
briefing and question and answer session, followed by one-on-one
interviews with center staff. The value of preenrollment tours and
briefings was also confirmed by Job Corps participants at two of the
centers we visited who thought the tours and briefings were definitely
worthwhile and by two regional directors who agreed that the
preenrollment tours and briefings were very effective in preparing
applicants for Job Corps and in improving program retention. These tours
and briefings would help meet the law’s requirements that applicants be
given a full understanding of Job Corps as well as what is expected of
them after enrollment.




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                             Several regional directors commented on the importance of identifying
                             applicants who are ready for Job Corps and can benefit from its training.
                             For example, one regional director stated that because the program
                             cannot afford to squander its resources on applicants who do not really
                             want to be in the program, admissions counselors should ensure that
                             applicants are ready and can benefit from the investment. Another
                             regional director noted that because so many people are eligible for Job
                             Corps (over 6 million) it was important to provide this opportunity to
                             those most likely to benefit and that commitment should be “first and
                             foremost” when assessing applicants. Another regional director agreed
                             that commitment was important but considered the program’s Capability
                             and Aspirations Assessment Tool to be ineffective in measuring it.


Characteristics Associated   In our analysis, we identified several characteristics associated with
With Program Retention       program retention that Labor might consider in designing outreach efforts,
                             establishing priorities among applicants, or improving participant
                             retention rates. Some of these characteristics would be of limited value
                             nationwide, however, because so few participants nationwide had those
                             characteristics. In addition, when considering how to use the results from
                             our analysis, Labor also needs to consider other factors.

                             Two of the characteristics most strongly related to the likelihood of
                             remaining in the program were need for bilingual education and years of
                             education. Of the characteristics we examined, the need for bilingual
                             education had the strongest relationship with the likelihood of remaining
                             in the program. Participants needing bilingual training—Spanish as well as
                             other languages—were much more likely than others to remain in the
                             program for at least 60 days. Education was also an important
                             factor—participants with 12 or more years of education were more likely
                             to remain than participants with 8 or fewer years of schooling.

                             Another characteristic with a strong relationship to retention was age. Our
                             analysis indicated that older participants had a greater likelihood than
                             younger participants of remaining in the program. Specifically, when
                             compared to 15-17-year-old participants, those aged 18 to 20 and 21 to 25
                             were more likely to remain in the program for at least 60 days.13 This
                             analysis supported the concern expressed by many of the admissions
                             counselors we interviewed regarding enrollment, retention, and placement
                             of 16- and 17-year-old youths, who make up nearly 40 percent of the

                             13
                               We obtained data for this analysis from Labor’s national database and they showed that less than
                             1 percent of program year 1995 enrollees were either 15 or 25 years old.



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                                        program year 1995 enrollees. The concerns they expressed were that these
                                        younger youths are often victimized by older participants at the center,
                                        have a harder time adjusting to center life, are more likely to drop out, and
                                        are difficult to place. Labor program year 1995 outcome data showed that
                                        16- and 17-year-old terminees were less likely to be placed once they left
                                        the program (see fig. 1). Because of the difficulty in placing 16- and
                                        17-year-old participants, one regional Labor official believed that the
                                        minimum age for enrollment should be increased, while another thought
                                        that there should be separate standards for these participants. In contrast,
                                        a third regional Labor official thought that maturity, and not age, should be
                                        the deciding factor for enrollment. He acknowledged, however, that the
                                        program should probably have different expectations and performance
                                        standards for 16-year-old participants. Another Labor official told us that a
                                        work group has been established to look into the problem of serving 16-
                                        and 17-year-old participants.



Figure 1: Percentage of Program Year 1995 Terminees Not Placed by Age

Percentage Not Placed

50



40



30



20



10



 0
     16       17        18      19         20          21     22         23         24        25+
                                         Age at Termination




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Appendix IV discusses our statistical analysis of characteristics related to
remaining in the program at least 60 days, including limitations associated
with the analysis. Table IV.3 in that appendix contains the final model and
significance levels. For example, it shows that other factors that had a
significant relationship to the likelihood of remaining in the program for at
least 60 days included residing less than 50 miles from the assigned Job
Corps center, being a nonresidential student, having no dependents, and
having served in the military. Additionally, some of the factors that proved
to be useful predictors of remaining in the program were characteristics of
only small subsets of participants. For example, because relatively few
participants had a need for bilingual education (less than 3 percent of the
Job Corps population), that characteristic was limited in its value as a
feature for nationwide use in screening. Because we found no large
subgroups with great differences, the ability of the model we used in our
analysis to predict 60-day retention for the program’s full population is
limited.

In deciding how to use the results of this analysis, Labor would need to
consider more than the statistical results. For example, it would clearly be
inappropriate to use these findings to exclude applicants who met the
statutory eligibility requirements because they had characteristics
associated with a low likelihood of completing the program. If Labor
chose to consider these characteristics in designing outreach efforts or
establishing priorities for eligible applicants, it would be faced with the
complexity of integrating these results with existing eligibility
requirements and program policy. For example, our results showed that
participants with at least 12 years of education were more likely to remain
for 60 days than those with less education. Many youths with that many
years in school, however, might not meet the eligibility requirement of
needing additional education or training to secure and hold meaningful
employment, participate successfully in regular school work, qualify for
other suitable training programs, or satisfy armed forces requirements.
The most clear-cut use of this information on participant characteristics
may be in designing efforts to improve the retention rate of participants
with characteristics associated with leaving the program early.




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                             Labor uses performance measures in deciding whether contractors are to
Performance                  continue to participate in the program. However, Labor does not have the
Measures Are                 information it needs to accurately assess the performance of its placement
Inadequate for               contractors. We found that two of the four measures Labor used in
                             assessing placement contractor performance were not meaningful. One of
Assessing Placement          the measures held contractors accountable for placing participants who
Contractor                   were realistically unemployable. A second measure, relating to the
                             placement of terminees in training-related occupations, included
Performance                  terminees who received little vocational training and also gave placement
                             contractors wide latitude in deciding whether placements were related to
                             training.

                             Job Corps requires placement contractors to assist all terminees with
                             placement regardless of how long they were in the program or the reason
                             they left, and it has established the following standards to measure
                             contractor performance:14

                         •   70 percent of all terminees assigned to a contractor are to be placed,
                         •   70 percent of all placements are to be in full-time jobs,
                         •   the average wage paid to participants placed in jobs is to be equal to or
                             greater than a specified level, and
                         •   42 percent of all job placements are to be in occupations related to the
                             training received.


Measurement of Job           In calculating a contractor’s placement performance, Labor includes
Placements Includes          participants who remained in the program for as little as 1 day, those who
Unemployable Terminees       were AWOL, and those who were expelled from Job Corps after 30 days for
                             using drugs or committing violent acts—all individuals a placement
                             contractor would have difficulty recommending for employment. During
                             program year 1995, about one-third of the participants leaving Job Corps
                             were in these categories. If Labor’s methodology were modified to include
                             only participants who were in the program for sufficient time to obtain at
                             least minimal benefits (that is, stayed for at least 30 days) and were
                             employable (that is, were not terminated for drug violations and violence
                             and were not AWOL), the average placement rate for the 12 placement
                             contractors we visited would be about 8 points higher—ranging from an
                             increase of 2.6 points for one contractor to 13.6 points for another
                             contractor—and the rank order among the 12 contractors would change
                             somewhat. (See fig. 2.)

                             14
                               Job Corps contractors provide placement services to all program participants once they leave the
                             program, except those who are terminated within the first 30 days for violating the program’s zero
                             tolerance policy for drugs and violence and those found to be ineligible after enrollment.



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Figure 2: Program Year 1995 Placement Rates for Selected Contractors Using Existing and Modified Methodology

Percentage Placed

 100




  80




  60




  40




  20




   0
           A        B         C   D   E        F       G          H   I       J      K       L
                                          Placement Contractors

       Existing Methodology
       Modified Methodology




                                           About half of the placement contractors we visited suggested that Labor
                                           should exclude certain individuals when calculating placement rates. For
                                           example, one contractor noted that it is unreasonable to expect
                                           contractors to recommend to an employer someone who was expelled for
                                           taking drugs or committing a violent act. Another contractor believed that
                                           it was a waste of resources to try to place participants who were AWOL
                                           because they were not only difficult to locate but also undependable to an
                                           employer. A third contractor suggested that Labor’s methodology include
                                           only participants who are truly employable. Similarly, a regional director
                                           stated that it is ridiculous to require placement specialists to be
                                           responsible for placing participants who stayed in the program a very
                                           short time, were expelled for drug use or violence, or were AWOL. He said
                                           that this responsibility asks the placement specialist to lie to employers by
                                           recommending they hire these people. Another regional director agreed
                                           that placement contractors should not be responsible for participants who




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                       received no benefit from the program or who were kicked out for violating
                       the program’s drug and violence policies.


Training-Related       The job-training match measure is used to evaluate the effectiveness of
Placement Measure Is   vocational training programs and placement contractors by determining
Flawed                 the percentage of jobs terminees obtain that matches the training they
                       received while in Job Corps. Labor allows placement contractors wide
                       discretion in deciding whether a job placement they obtain for a terminee
                       is related to the training received—another measure of performance. At
                       the same time, Labor requires that terminees who receive little vocational
                       training be included in the calculation of this measure. As a result, the
                       value of the current job-training match performance measure is
                       questionable. Labor is developing a new system to determine job-training
                       matches that, it believes, will be more accurate.

                       Labor’s guidance gives placement contractors wide latitude in deciding
                       whether a job placement was a job-training match. According to Labor
                       guidance, a job-training match results when a participant is placed in a job
                       requiring skills similar to those included in the participant’s training.
                       Placement contractors are responsible for recording this information.
                       Labor’s guidance for these decisions consists of 16 broad categories of
                       training programs, and within each category are a varying number of
                       detailed occupations in which Job Corps participants may be trained. In
                       addition, each of the 16 broad categories contains a list of jobs that would
                       be considered a match with the training received. To illustrate, the broad
                       training category of construction trades includes 47 detailed training
                       occupations and 357 placement occupations. An individual who was
                       trained in any one of the 47 training occupations and then was placed into
                       any one of the 357 placement occupations would be counted as having
                       made a job-training match. Overall, Labor’s system includes nearly 300
                       detailed training occupations and more than 5,700 job placement
                       occupations.

                       In addition to the wide range of jobs that are considered to be training
                       matches under each of the broad training categories, Labor’s guidance
                       includes jobs that appear to bear little, if any, relationship to the training
                       received. For example, a position as a key cutter would be considered to
                       be a training match for any of the 51 training categories under the broad
                       category of mechanics and repairers, which includes auto mechanic,
                       electronics assembler, and parts clerk. A position as a general laborer
                       would be considered to be a job-training match for any of the 30 training



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                                   occupations under the precision production category, which includes
                                   mechanical drafter, sheet metal worker, and welder. Table 2 lists examples
                                   of some possible matches under Labor’s guidance.

Table 2: Examples of Occupations
Considered to Be Job-Training      Instructional category                     Occupation
Matches for Selected Vocational    Automobile mechanic                        Band attacher (attaches wristbands to
Training Programs                                                             watches)

                                                                              Feeder (stacks paper in offset press)

                                                                              Key cutter

                                                                              Washer (clock parts)
                                   Cook                                       Bar attendant

                                                                              Car hop

                                                                              Housecleaner (hotel)

                                                                              Fast-food worker
                                   Cosmetologist                              Hot-room attendant (gives patrons towels)

                                                                              Sales person for weed eradication services

                                                                              Shaver (brushes suede garment after it
                                                                              has been cleaned)

                                                                              Shaver (shaves hog carcasses)
                                   Heavy equipment operator                   Baggage checker

                                                                              Freight elevator operator

                                                                              Porter

                                                                              Ticket seller
                                   Medical secretary                          Coin counter-and-wrapper

                                                                              General cashier

                                                                              Hand packager

                                                                              Linen-room attendant
                                   Welder                                     Antisqueak filler (shoes)

                                                                              Casket liner

                                                                              General laborer

                                                                              Hacker (lifts bricks and clay tiles from
                                                                              conveyor belt and stacks them)




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Many of the positions that are considered to be related to Job Corps
training require relatively little training to perform. The job placement
occupational categories contained in Labor’s guidance for job-training
match come from its Dictionary of Occupational Titles. The dictionary
includes, for each occupation, the average time required to learn the
techniques, acquire information, and develop the facility for average
performance in a specific job situation. For more than 700 of the jobs
included in Labor’s guidance, the average training time is indicated as
either only a short demonstration or training up to and including 1 month.
Thus, Labor is allowing job-training match credit for occupations requiring
relatively short training time even though participants spend an average of
about 7 months in the program at an average cost of about $15,300 each.15
While we recognize that some of these positions provide entry into an
occupational area that may lead to a better job, in our view it is
questionable to consider such positions to be a job-training match until the
participant advances into a job commensurate with the training received.

Further, Labor guidance encourages placement contractors to search
among the allowable jobs for a job-training match. Its policy handbook
states that, if a job-training match is not generated when a job placement
code is entered in its automated system, the placement contractor is
allowed to enter a different code that may generate a job-training match,
“so long as integrity of data is maintained.” We found that placement
contractors’ practice of recording job-training matches does indeed raise
questions about the integrity of the data. One contractor told us that if a
placement specialist obtained a job for a terminee that was not a
job-training match under Labor’s guidance, then the manager and
placement specialist would meet to determine how to make it a match.
This same contractor claimed that it is possible to get a job-training match
in fast-food restaurants for participants trained as bank tellers, secretaries,
and welders. For the most part, the placement contractors we visited
similarly indicated that creativity is used when entering the code for the
placement job in order to obtain a job-training match and raised concerns
about the validity of reported job-training match statistics.

The job-training match performance measure may also unfairly hold
placement contractors accountable for placing certain terminees in
training-related jobs. All participants placed in a job or the military are
included in the calculation of job-training match, regardless of how long
they received vocational training. Thus, participants for a few days or

15
 Job Corps: High Costs and Mixed Results Raise Questions About Program’s Effectiveness
(GAO/HEHS-95-180, June 30, 1995).



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                     weeks who had little chance to participate to any extent in vocational skill
                     training would be included in the calculation of the job-training match
                     measure. Most of the placement contractors and regional staff we spoke
                     with agreed that when calculating this measure it would be more
                     meaningful to include only participants who completed their vocational
                     skills training.

                     Labor officials told us that they are revising the methodology for
                     determining job-training matches. The proposed methodology will use an
                     existing system used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect
                     occupational employment data by various industry classifications. This
                     system uses about 830 five-digit codes rather than the 5,700 nine-digit
                     codes used in the current methodology based on the Dictionary of
                     Occupational Titles. In its comments on a draft of our report, Labor
                     acknowledged that we made a legitimate point about the need to
                     strengthen the job-training match process. According to Labor, the
                     proposed system will be more accurate and easier to maintain and monitor
                     in terms of egregious job-training matches. Labor hopes to have
                     implemented the new methodology by July 1, 1998. In addition, Labor
                     stated that the job-training match issue is one of the primary projects
                     being addressed by a Job Corps committee to improve the quality of
                     vocational outcomes.


                     We found that a characteristic common to the contractors we visited that
Characteristics of   had higher placement rates was having staff solely responsible for
Contractors With     providing placement services to Job Corps participants. In addition, most
Higher Placement     of these placement contractors were either Job Corps centers or had staff
                     located at the centers they served. In contrast, Labor regional officials
Rates                have been concerned with the performance of state employment service
                     agencies and have not renewed many of their contracts during the past 2
                     years. We also noted that Labor and several of the Job Corps centers we
                     visited were starting to improve links to the business community in an
                     effort to increase placements.

                     The placement contractors we visited had had varying success in placing
                     Job Corps participants in program year 1995. Placement included getting a
                     job, entering the military, or returning full-time to school. The seven
                     contractors that had relatively high placement rates (over 73 percent)
                     included four Job Corps centers and three private organizations. A
                     common characteristic among these contractors was having staff who had
                     only one responsibility—placing Job Corps participants. Other contractors



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that were not as successful used the same staff to perform outreach and
admissions as well as placement. One contractor whose staff performed
these functions noted that with the program’s emphasis on maintaining
centers at full capacity, placement is often secondary to admissions.

We also noted that most of the contractors with higher placement rates
were either Job Corps centers or had staff at the center. Placement
specialists at the Job Corps center contended that being at the center
allowed them easy access to instructors, counselors, and participants. One
Labor regional director also mentioned the importance of having a
continuity of services from the time enrollees arrive at the center until
they are placed, noting that it was no accident that every center in his
region also has a placement contract.

In contrast, the placement contractor we visited with the highest
placement rate was not a Job Corps center and did not have staff at a
center. The program manager of this private company viewed Job Corps
placement as a business and ran the organization accordingly—either
placement specialists produced jobs for Job Corps participants or else the
program manager found someone who could. Thus, having a focus on the
ultimate goal—placement in a job—is a strategy associated with a high
placement rate.

One type of contractor that generally has not had high placement rates is
state employment service agencies. Between program years 1994 and 1996,
Labor regional offices did not renew two-thirds (12 of 18) of the placement
contracts they had with state employment service agencies (see table 3).
Labor officials in three regional offices informed us that they cancelled the
placement contracts with state employment service agencies because of
poor performance. A Labor official in a fourth region stated that the
agency had sent a letter of concern to the state employment service
agency because it was the worst-performing placement contractor in the
region. Five of the six remaining state employment service placement
contractors had placement rates in program year 1995 below the national
Job Corps standard of 70 percent.




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Table 3: State Employment Service
Agencies Having Placement Contracts                                              Program year
With Job Corps, Program Years                             1994                1995                 1996
1994-96
                                      State agency        Missouri            Missouri             Missouri
                                                          Nevada              Nevada               Nevada
                                                          North Dakota        North Dakota         North Dakota
                                                          Oklahoma            Oklahoma             Oklahoma
                                                          South Dakota        South Dakota         South Dakota
                                                          Texas               Texas                Texas

                                                          Alabama             Alabama
                                                          Arkansas            Arkansas
                                                          Florida             Florida
                                                          Georgia             Georgia
                                                          Louisiana           Louisiana
                                                          Mississippi         Mississippi
                                                          Tennessee           Tennessee
                                                          Virgin Islands      Virgin Islands

                                                          Kansas
                                                          Kentucky
                                                          Washington
                                                          Wyoming

                                      Officials from two of the three state employment service agencies we
                                      visited expressed reservations about continuing to contract with Job
                                      Corps for placement services. For example, one employment service
                                      official said that the agency might not seek contract renewal because of its
                                      strained relations with Labor’s regional office. An official from another
                                      employment service commented that its Job Corps contract was really
                                      “small potatoes” and insufficient to provide for adequate staffing and that
                                      the only reason it was still involved was that the employment service
                                      commissioner believed that Job Corps was worthwhile and wanted to
                                      assist disadvantaged youths. An official from the third employment service
                                      agency we visited noted that the Labor regional office threatened to cancel
                                      its placement contract 2 years ago for poor performance and gave the
                                      agency another 6 months to improve. The official noted that, under new
                                      management, performance did improve and Labor renewed the agency’s
                                      contract for another 2 years.

                                      Placement specialists at the three employment service offices we visited
                                      stated that they have no contact with Job Corps participants before their
                                      termination. It also appeared that the major placement emphasis was to
                                      register Job Corps participants in the employment service databank. While
                                      this did provide access to a major source of potential jobs, it was the same




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              service provided to regular job seekers using the employment service and
              was not any kind of specialized assistance.

              As pointed out by the Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on
              Employment and Training, Committee on Labor and Human Resources,
              during hearings on Job Corps in April 1997, a key to program success is
              the development of links to the business community. However, concerns
              were raised about whether Job Corps had developed such links. We noted
              that several of the centers we visited that had higher placement rates also
              had good relationships with local businesses. For example, one center had
              established a physical therapy program to meet the needs of local health
              facilities, and another center used temporary agencies as a springboard for
              their computer services trainees to gain access to the area’s computer
              industry. A third center was working on improving its work experience
              component to better match participants’ skills and abilities to the needs of
              local businesses so that more permanent hires would result.

              Labor regional offices are also exploring ways to improve links to the
              business sector. For example, one office has recently started a business
              roundtable of 18 employers in the region who discuss placement issues.
              Another regional office has begun a project to get local employers
              involved with training and placement. The idea is to have employers
              identify what they need in terms of training curriculum, equipment, and
              skills and then determine how the program can meet these needs.
              Recognizing the importance of employer links, Labor has launched a new
              school-to-work initiative within Job Corps to involve more employers in
              placing program terminees and to establish the basic framework for a
              school-to-work program. It started as a pilot program at three Job Corps
              centers and will be expanded to 30 centers this year. Further expansion
              will depend on the availability of funding.


              Labor’s program guidance to admissions counselors on two eligibility
Conclusions   requirements was ambiguous and incomplete. One of the program’s
              eligibility criteria—living in an environment characterized by disorienting
              conditions—has not been clearly defined in the statute, regulations, or
              Labor’s guidance. In addition, Labor has not provided adequate guidance
              regarding the requirement that participants have the capability and
              aspirations needed to complete and secure the full benefits of Job Corps.
              As a result, outreach and admissions contractors may not be enrolling the
              applicants who are most appropriate for the program.




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In the absence of specific Labor guidance, we noted that outreach and
admissions practices varied among contractors. Those with higher
participant retention rates tended to have better procedures to identify
applicants who have the capability and aspirations to remain in and
benefit from the program. A particularly effective tool in preparing
applicants for Job Corps appeared to be preenrollment tours and briefings.
Most admissions counselors expressed concern about the enrollment of
16- and 17-year-old applicants. Labor data confirm that these youths are
more likely to drop out early for disciplinary reasons and less likely to be
placed once they leave the program.

Although Job Corps is a performance-driven program, the measures used
to assess placement performance may not be meaningful and thus may not
provide Labor with the information it needs to accurately assess
placement contractor performance. Labor’s system for calculating a
contractor’s placement performance included program terminees who
were realistically unemployable. Determining what happens to every
program participant is an important indicator of how well Job Corps is
performing but not necessarily an appropriate measure of a contractor’s
placement performance. Guidance related to another placement
measure—the extent to which terminees were placed in training-related
occupations—gave contractors such wide latitude when deciding whether
a job was related to the training received that the validity of the
measurement was questionable. In addition, the performance measure
included terminees who received little vocational skills training and,
therefore, were unlikely to be placed in jobs requiring an acquired skill.
Labor is redesigning the methodology for determining job-training
matches, which may help address some of these problems. However, any
system would still be susceptible to manipulation by placement
contractors without proper oversight and monitoring.

We noted similarities in the procedures the placement contractors with
higher placement rates used. One common characteristic was that they all
had staff whose sole responsibility was placing program participants,
whereas other contractors had the same staff performing outreach and
admissions functions and providing placement services. In contrast, five of
the six state employment service agencies were performing below Labor’s
placement performance standard in program year 1995. We noted that
between program years 1994 and 1996, Labor did not renew the contracts
with 12 of the 18 state employment service agencies that had Job Corps
placement contracts. None of the placement specialists we interviewed at
the three employment service offices we visited had contact with students



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                             before termination, and it appeared that their primary effort was to
                             register participants in the employment service databank. At these
                             agencies, it appeared that Job Corps participants received similar services
                             as regular employment service clients, raising questions as to why Job
                             Corps is paying for services that could be obtained free of charge


                             To help ensure that Job Corps’ resources serve the most appropriate
Recommendations to           participants, we recommend that the Secretary of Labor provide clear and
the Secretary of Labor       complete guidance on program eligibility criteria, ensuring that the
                             guidance is consistent with the law, and provide better guidance to ensure
                             that outreach and admissions contractors assess each applicant’s
                             capability and aspirations to complete training and attain a positive
                             outcome.

                             Improvements are also needed to make the measures used to assess
                             placement contractor performance more meaningful. Therefore, we
                             recommend that the Secretary of Labor modify certain measures for
                             placement contractors, including

                         •   eliminate from the placement pool participants whom contractors
                             realistically could not or should not be expected to place, such as
                             participants who were expelled for criminal or violent behavior;
                         •   replace the current job-training match system with one that captures
                             realistic information and provide guidance to regional offices to ensure
                             that the data are accurately recorded;
                         •   establish separate placement performance standards for participants with
                             different levels of program accomplishment—for example, those who
                             completed program requirements and those who dropped out early.


                             In Labor’s comments on a draft of this report, the agency disagreed with
Agency Comments              our recommendation that it clarify and expand its program eligibility
                             criteria in order to ensure that they are consistent with the law. Labor
                             stated that our report lacked acknowledgment of the detailed
                             specifications for eligibility requirements developed over the years in
                             conjunction with the Office of Inspector General and that the eligibility,
                             verification, and documentation requirements contained in its policy
                             handbook are detailed and specifically related to guidance for Job Corps
                             admissions counselors. Labor gave no indication of any formal action it
                             planned to take on this recommendation. Although Labor expressed some
                             concern with our remaining recommendations, it acknowledged that they



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                       have merit, warrant consideration, and identify actions that the agency
                       would take in response to them.

                       Labor’s specific concerns with our report are in three broad
                       areas—adequacy of program eligibility guidance, potential effect of
                       additional assessment procedures, and recommended changes to
                       placement performance measures, including training-related placements.
                       Labor also pointed out a number of items in the draft report that it
                       believed should be modified or clarified, and we acted on these, where
                       appropriate. For example, we clarified that our discussion of the
                       ambiguity of program eligibility guidance related to only 2 of the 11
                       criteria. We also made a number of other technical changes to our report
                       to respond to Labor’s comments. Following is a summary of Labor’s
                       concerns and our responses. Labor’s full comments are printed in
                       appendix VI.


Eligibility Guidance   Labor stated that our report lacked acknowledgment of the detailed
                       specifications for eligibility requirements developed over the years in
                       conjunction with the Office of Inspector General and that the eligibility,
                       verification, and documentation requirements contained in its policy
                       handbook are detailed and specifically related to guidance for Job Corps
                       admissions counselors. Labor expressed concern with our
                       characterization of the program eligibility guidance as inadequate. For
                       example, regarding the lack of definition in Labor’s policy handbook for
                       “limited job opportunities,” Labor commented that training conducted in
                       program year 1995 for all admissions counselors included technical
                       assistance material that defined this term as follows: “scarcity of jobs,
                       commensurate with the skill levels of Job Corps-eligible youth and which
                       has been designated as an area of substantial unemployment.” Labor
                       added that “In essence, any applicant who lacks the specific skills required
                       by the local labor market to obtain meaningful employment is a legitimate
                       candidate for Job Corps.”

                       Labor acknowledged that another eligibility factor—cultural
                       deprivation—is not included in the policy handbook because
                       more-specific factors—including (1) disruptive homelife, (2) unsafe or
                       overcrowded dwelling, (3) disruptive community with high crime rates,
                       and (4) limited job opportunities—were more useful to admissions
                       counselors than the general term itself. Finally, Labor expressed concern
                       with our discussion of the tool used in assessing another eligibility
                       requirement—capability and aspirations. According to Labor, this



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assessment by its very nature must rely on the judgment of admissions
counselors and determining aspirations is very difficult and challenging;
Labor stated that the current assessment tool will be revisited and
modified according to suggestions from regional offices and admissions
counselors.

We disagree that sufficient policy guidance defining “limited job
opportunities” was provided to admissions counselors at a training
seminar. Even if all admissions counselors at that time received such
guidance, contractors and staff have since turned over. And, as mentioned
in our report, admissions counselors we interviewed had different
interpretations of “limited job opportunities,” indicating that something
more is needed to ensure the consistent interpretation of limited job
opportunities. Because Labor’s policy handbook was created to be “the
single document containing all policy and requirements which would be:
clear and concise, and up-to-date, and consistent with legislative
provisions,” any definition of “limited job opportunities” that Labor
develops should be incorporated into this policy handbook. In addition,
the law states that environmental factors substantially impair an
individual’s ability to succeed in training, not his or her ability to find
employment. But Labor fails to explain the connection between its
definition and the impairment of ability to succeed in training. And there is
a separate eligibility requirement in the law that the applicant must
“require additional education, training, or intensive counseling and related
assistance in order to secure and hold meaningful employment . . . .”
Labor’s interpretation of limited job opportunities appears to duplicate or
at least overlap that separate requirement. Finally, Labor fails to explain
how its definition satisfies the program regulations that stipulate that the
environmental criteria are to be used in the context of residential versus
nonresidential programs. Nowhere in its guidance does Labor mention this
distinction.

We also disagree that Labor provided adequate guidance regarding the
term “cultural deprivation.” On the Job Corps application form, Labor not
only lists each of the four factors it says define “cultural deprivation” as
separate and distinct eligibility factors (any one of which would satisfy the
eligibility requirement) but also adds the term “cultural deprivation” as a
fifth factor that can be used to meet program eligibility. Guidance for
completing the application form does not define this term and, as noted in
our report, most of the admissions counselors we spoke with admitted
that they did not know what the term meant. Furthermore, cultural




Page 28                 GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
                        B-272492




                        deprivation cannot include disruptive homelife, as Labor says it does,
                        because the law lists these as two separate environmental conditions.

                        Regarding the eligibility requirement that participants have the capability
                        and aspirations to complete and benefit from Job Corps, we agree with
                        Labor that making such a determination is very difficult and challenging
                        and, therefore, we believe that it is important that admissions counselors
                        have guidance adequate to assist them in making these judgments.
                        Furthermore, we agree with one regional official’s portrayal of the current
                        assessment tool as a beginning step in providing guidance on this
                        criterion. Accordingly, we support Labor’s decision to revisit this
                        assessment tool and to obtain regional office and admissions contractors’
                        suggestions for improving it.


Assessment Procedures   With respect to assessment procedures, Labor agreed that Job Corps
                        should not enroll youths who obviously have no desire to be in the
                        program or capability to succeed and that assessing the interest and ability
                        to benefit are important parts of the intake procedure. Labor also noted
                        that participants’ leaving the program within the first 2 months is a cost
                        that Job Corps must do whatever it can to minimize. However, Labor
                        points out the need for a balance between this goal and the goal of serving
                        youths who truly need the program, noting that overly strict assessment
                        procedures could be a barrier to many severely disadvantaged youths.
                        Furthermore, Labor states that the Congress clearly intended that Job
                        Corps serve a severely at-risk population. Labor acknowledged that our
                        report contained a number of positive suggestions (that is, “best
                        practices”) that will be made available to outreach and admissions as well
                        as placement contractors.

                        Labor cautioned that the results of our analysis of characteristics
                        associated with program retention could be misinterpreted because the
                        report lacks the proper context. Labor further suggested that the detailed
                        appendix related to this discussion be removed. Finally, Labor stated that
                        the age data relating to participants who were 15 and 25 years old was
                        inaccurate because Job Corps serves individuals aged 16 to 24.

                        While we do not disagree that the program is to target persons most in
                        need, the law states that the purpose is to assist youths who both need and
                        can benefit from an intensive program. And the law requires that enrollees
                        have the capabilities and aspirations to complete and secure the full
                        benefits of the program. Several Labor regional directors commented on



                        Page 29                 GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
                        B-272492




                        the importance of identifying applicants who are ready for Job Corps and
                        can benefit from its training. For example, one director stated that with
                        more than 6 million people eligible for Job Corps, admissions counselors
                        have to identify those most likely to benefit from the program and that
                        commitment should be first and foremost when they assess applicants. We
                        also note that, in a previous report, we found that a key element of
                        successful job-training projects was ensuring that participants are
                        committed to training and to getting a job.16 Accordingly, we endorse
                        Labor’s decision to make available to admissions contractors the
                        procedures noted in our report that help identify the applicants who have
                        the commitment and motivation to remain in and benefit from the
                        program.

                        We modified the report to provide our reasons for performing our analysis
                        of characteristics associated with program retention and to highlight the
                        limitations associated with our approach as well as the results. However,
                        we do not believe the detailed appendix should be eliminated. In addition
                        to describing our analysis and results in detail, it describes the related
                        limitations. Regarding our mention of 15- and 25-year-old program
                        participants being inaccurate, we obtained our data from Labor’s national
                        database, which showed that less than 1 percent of program year 1995
                        enrollees were either 15 or 25 years old. We have added a relevant
                        footnote.


Placement Performance   Labor expressed concern with our recommendation with respect to
Measures                placement performance measures that Job Corps eliminate from the
                        contractors’ placement pool individuals who realistically could not or
                        should not be expected to be placed, such as those expelled from the
                        program for using drugs or engaging in violent behavior. Labor believes
                        that the program has the responsibility to provide placement services to all
                        participants and that it is not asking placement contractors to mislead or
                        lie to employers during placement. Labor further commented that the
                        current placement measure resulted from a recommendation by its Office
                        of Inspector General that all participants who leave the program should be
                        included in the placement pool, thus creating incentives to keep students
                        as long as possible. Labor acknowledged that the points we made in this
                        portion of the report merit serious consideration and, therefore, it will
                        convene a workgroup to discuss our recommendations and examine the



                        16
                         Employment and Training: Successful Projects Share Common Strategy (GAO/HEHS-96-108, May 7,
                        1996).



                        Page 30                       GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
B-272492




incentives and disincentives resulting from any proposed changes to the
performance management system.

Labor also acknowledged that our report contained “some good points”
with respect to training-related placements but expressed concern about
our use of hypothetical examples of questionable job-training matches and
the lack of data to indicate the degree to which these occur. Labor also
commented that the claim by a contractor about obtaining a job-training
match for participants trained as bank tellers, secretaries, and welders and
placed in fast-food restaurants is inaccurate, noting that the system does
not permit such matches.

Although Labor may not be asking its placement contractors to lie to or
mislead employers when attempting to place individuals who realistically
could not be placed, by holding contractors responsible for placing
individuals expelled for criminal or violent behavior, the program may be
encouraging such practices. We agree with Labor that determining what
happens to every participant is an important indicator of program
performance, but we do not believe that it is necessarily an appropriate
measure of a contractor’s placement performance. We also acknowledge
that establishing an effective performance management system is complex
and agree with Labor that, before any changes are made to this system, the
incentives and disincentives should be thoroughly examined, and we
commend Labor for its proposed action.

We used “hypothetical” examples of job-training matches to illustrate the
wide latitude Job Corps permits. Labor data were not available to identify
the extent of abuse, but as we mentioned in the report, most placement
contractors we interviewed indicated that creativity is used when entering
codes for placement jobs, and they expressed their concern about the
validity of reported job-training match statistics. In response to Labor’s
contention that the system does not permit job-training matches for
participants trained as bank tellers, secretaries, and welders who obtain
jobs in fast-food restaurants, we agree that if such jobs were reported as
“fast-food workers,” the system would not permit a job-training match.
But, as a contractor we spoke with pointed out, reporting such jobs in
fast-food restaurants as “cashier” would be an allowable match for
participants trained as bank tellers and secretaries, and reporting such
placements as “machine cleaners” would be an allowable match for
participants trained as welders.




Page 31                 GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
B-272492




As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce the contents of
this report earlier, we plan no further distribution of it until 15 days after
its issue date. We will then send copies to the Secretary of Labor, the
Director of the Office of Management and Budget, relevant congressional
committees, and others who are interested. Copies will be made available
to others on request.

If you or your staff have any questions concerning this report, please call
me at (202) 512-7014 or Sigurd R. Nilsen at (202) 512-7003. GAO contacts
and staff acknowledgments are listed in appendix VII.

Sincerely yours,




Carlotta C. Joyner
Director, Education and
  Employment Issues




Page 32                 GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Page 33   GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Contents



Letter                                                                                    1


Appendix I                                                                               38

Scope and
Methodology
Appendix II                                                                              44

Labor’s Job Corps
Eligibility Criteria
Appendix III                                                                             47

Labor’s Capability and
Aspirations
Assessment Tool
Appendix IV                                                                              50

Analysis of the
Relationship Between
Participant
Characteristics and
the Likelihood of
Remaining in Job
Corps for at Least 60
Days
Appendix V                                                                               59

Data Supporting
Report Figures




                         Page 34   GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
                       Contents




Appendix VI                                                                                          61

Comments From the
Department of Labor
Appendix VII                                                                                         72

GAO Contacts and
Staff
Acknowledgments
Related GAO Products                                                                                 76


Tables                 Table 1: Comparison of Elements of the Environmental Criterion                 8
                         in Job Corps Program Guidance
                       Table 2: Examples of Occupations Considered to Be Job-Training                19
                         Matches for Selected Vocational Training Programs
                       Table 3: State Employment Service Agencies Having Placement                   23
                         Contracts With Job Corps, Program Years 1994-96
                       Table I.1: Outreach, Admissions, and Placement Contractors We                 39
                         Visited
                       Table IV.1: Percentage of Participants Remaining in Job Corps for             51
                         at Least 60 Days by Selected Characteristics
                       Table IV.2: Bivariate and Multivariate Effects of Various Factors             53
                         on the Odds of Remaining in Job Corps for at Least 60 Days
                       Table IV.3: Final Multivariate Model of Effects of Various Factors            56
                         on the Odds of Remaining in Job Corps for at Least 60 Days
                       Table V.1: Percentage of Program Year 1995 Terminees Not                      59
                         Placed by Age
                       Table V.2: Comparison of Program Year 1995 Placement Rates for                59
                         Selected Contractors
                       Table V.3: Percentage of Program Year 1995 Enrollees Staying in               60
                         Program for Less Than 30 Days
                       Table V.4: Program Year 1995 Placement Rates                                  60

Figures                Figure 1: Percentage of Program Year 1995 Terminees Not Placed                14
                         by Age
                       Figure 2: Program Year 1995 Placement Rates for Selected                      17
                         Contractors Using Existing and Modified Methodology




                       Page 35                 GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Contents




Figure I.1: Percentage of Program Year 1995 Enrollees Leaving                41
  Within 30 Days for Selected Contractors
Figure I.2: Program Year 1995 Placement Rates for Selected                   42
  Contractors




Abbreviations

AWOL       absent without leave
SPAMIS     Student Pay, Allotment, and Management Information
               System


Page 36                GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Page 37   GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Appendix I

Scope and Methodology


              We designed our study to identify whether Labor’s policy guidance on
              eligibility was consistent with legislation and regulations and to collect
              information on contractors’ practices in enrolling individuals for the
              program and in placing them in jobs after they leave Job Corps. We
              reviewed Job Corps legislation as well as Labor’s program regulations and
              policy guidance on program eligibility, outreach and assessment of
              individuals for participation in the program, and placement of participants
              after termination.

              We also interviewed national and regional Job Corps officials and
              conducted site visits to 14 outreach, admissions, and placement
              contractors. We augmented the information we collected during the site
              visits with data from Labor’s Student Pay, Allotment, and Management
              Information System (SPAMIS), a database containing nationwide Job Corps
              data on all Job Corps participants as well as information on the outreach,
              admissions, and placement contractors for each participant. We analyzed
              program year 1995 enrollee data, the most recent full program year for
              which SPAMIS data were available. While we did not verify the accuracy of
              Labor’s SPAMIS data, we performed internal validity checks to ensure the
              consistency of the database. We performed our work between October
              1996 and July 1997 in accordance with generally accepted government
              auditing standards.


              We visited 14 Job Corps outreach and assessment and placement
Site Visits   contractors. We selected the sites judgmentally to provide a mixture of
              contractors that were private contractors, Job Corps centers, and state
              agencies. We also selected contractors that provided both outreach and
              assessment services and placement services or that provided only one of
              these services. In addition, we considered past contractor performance in
              making our selections. We selected contractors located in 5 of Labor’s 10
              regions to provide some regional management diversity and geographic
              dispersion and to allow us to visit multiple contractors during individual
              trips.

              In making our site selections, we identified contractors that had outreach
              and admissions or placement contracts with Labor during program years
              1994 and 1995 and that were still under contract in program year 1996.
              This provided us with contractors that had multiyear program experience
              and were currently under contract with Job Corps. In order to select
              among the larger contractors, we included only contractors who enrolled
              or were responsible for placing at least 150 participants each year. We



              Page 38                 GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
                                          Appendix I
                                          Scope and Methodology




                                          then ranked outreach and admissions contractors according to the
                                          percentage of program year 1995 enrollees who stayed in the program for
                                          more than 30 days and placement contractors according to the percentage
                                          of program year 1995 terminees placed in jobs, school, the military, or
                                          other training.17 We then selected contractors from among the top, middle,
                                          and bottom third of these rankings. Table I.1 lists the contractors we
                                          visited and their characteristics.


Table I.1: Outreach, Admissions, and Placement Contractors We Visited
                                                                                             Outreach and
                                                                                             admissions
Labor region         Location             Contractor               Contractor type           rankinga                 Placement rankingb
IV                   Kittrell, N.C.       Kittrell Job Corps       Center                    Top third                Top third
                                          Center
                     Raleigh, N.C.        North Carolina           State                     Bottom third             Not a placement
                                          Department of                                                               contractor
                                          Human Resources
V                    St. Paul, Minn.      Dynamic              Private                       Top third                Middle third
                                          Educational
                                          Systems, Inc./Hubert
                                          H. Humphrey Job
                                          Corps Centerc
VI                   Dallas, Tex.         Dynamic                  Private                   Did not meet             Bottom third
                                          Educational                                        selection criteria
                                          Systems, Inc.
                     El Paso, Tex.        Education                Center                    Top third                Top third
                                          Foundation/David L.
                                          Carrasco Job Corps
                                          Center
                     New Orleans, La.     New Orleans Job          Center                    Middle third             Bottom third
                                          Corps Center
                     Oklahoma City, Okla. Oklahoma            State                          Bottom third             Bottom third
                                          Employment
                                          Security Commission
                     Austin, Tex.         Texas Workforce          State                     Middle third             Bottom third
                                          Commission
IX                   Sacramento, Calif.   Nero Support             Private                   Not an outreach and Top third
                                          Services                                           admissions
                                                                                             contractor
                     Sacramento, Calif.   Sacramento Job           Center                    Middle third             Top third
                                          Corps Center
                     San Jose, Calif.     San Jose Job Corps       Center                    Did not meet             Top third
                                          Center                                             selection criteria
                                                                                                                                  (continued)
                                          17
                                            One of Labor’s standards for measuring the performance of outreach and admissions contractors is
                                          the extent to which enrollees remain in Job Corps more than 30 days. The current standard is that
                                          90 percent of enrollees arriving at the center will remain more than 30 days.



                                          Page 39                          GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
                                   Appendix I
                                   Scope and Methodology




                                                                                     Outreach and
                                                                                     admissions
Labor region   Location            Contractor               Contractor type          rankinga                 Placement rankingb
               Carson City, Nev.   State of Nevada          State                    Middle third             Bottom third
                                   Department of
                                   Employment,
                                   Training, and
                                   Rehabilitation
               San Francisco, Calif. Women In               Private                  Middle third             Not a placement
                                     Community Service                                                        contractor
X              Seattle, Wash.      Del Jen, Inc.            Private                  Top third                Top third

                                   a
                                    Ranking based on percentage of program year 1995 enrollees staying in the program for at least
                                   30 days.
                                   b
                                   Ranking based on percentage of program year 1995 assigned terminees placed in job, school,
                                   military, or other training.
                                   c
                                    Hubert H. Humphrey Job Corps Center subcontracts with Dynamic Educational Systems, Inc., to
                                   perform outreach, admissions, and placement.



                                   We visited 11 outreach and admissions contractors from which varying
                                   percentages of program year 1995 enrollees left the program within the
                                   first 30 days. As shown in figure I.1, the percentages ranged from about
                                   1 percent for one contractor’s enrollees to nearly 20 percent for another’s.




                                   Page 40                          GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
                                          Appendix I
                                          Scope and Methodology




Figure I.1: Percentage of Program Year 1995 Enrollees Leaving Within 30 Days for Selected Contractors

Percentage of Enrollees

25




20




15




10




 5




 0
        A         B       C      D       E          F     G        H         I       J       K
                                 Outreach and Admissions Contractors




                                          We also selected 12 placement contractors to visit that had varying
                                          success in placing Job Corps participants in program year 1995. As shown
                                          in figure I.2, placement rates ranged from about 54 percent to about
                                          85 percent.




                                          Page 41                      GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
                                           Appendix I
                                           Scope and Methodology




Figure I.2: Program Year 1995 Placement Rates for Selected Contractors

 Percentage of Enrollees
100




 80




 60




 40




 20




  0
         A       B         C   D      E        F       G        H    I      J       K       L
                                          Placement Contractors


                                           To obtain information on how contractors enroll individuals in Job Corps
Interviews With                            and place them after their termination, we interviewed contractor
Contractors                                personnel using a semistructured interview protocol. We asked outreach
                                           and admissions contractors questions related to their practices and
                                           procedures in attracting youths to Job Corps and in screening applicants.
                                           We also asked about their understanding and implementation of program
                                           eligibility criteria as specified by Labor and about their views on what
                                           affects program retention. We questioned placement contractors on their
                                           procedures in placing terminees in jobs, the military, or other training; the
                                           types of services they provided to terminees; and their practices when
                                           deciding whether a placement is a job-training match. We asked both
                                           groups of contractors about their views on current Labor performance
                                           standards related to recruitment and placements and their opinions on
                                           improvements needed in the Job Corps program. At three centers (David
                                           L. Carrasco, Kittrell, and Sacramento), we also interviewed Job Corps
                                           participants (approximately six from each center) to learn about their
                                           experiences when they were recruited for Job Corps and to obtain their
                                           views about the enrollment process.




                                           Page 42                  GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
                        Appendix I
                        Scope and Methodology




                        We interviewed Labor officials at national and selected regional offices to
National and Regional   obtain an overview of Job Corps enrollment, placement, and contracting.
Job Corps Offices       We also obtained information on Labor’s policy guidance on eligibility and
                        how it relates to the Job Corps legislation; outreach, admissions, and
                        placement contractors’ performance; and the program’s performance
                        management system. In addition, we reviewed Labor’s Policy and
                        Requirements Handbook, which was designed to include all program
                        policy and requirements concerning eligibility criteria and policies and
                        standards related to program enrollment and participant placement.


                        We analyzed Job Corps participant retention data, reasons for termination,
Data Analysis           and placement information for program year 1995. We used 30-day
                        retention data, part of Labor’s standard for evaluating outreach and
                        admissions contractor performance, as a basis for selecting outreach and
                        admissions contractors to visit. We expanded our analysis of retention
                        beyond the 30-day standard and determined how many terminees left Job
                        Corps within 60 days of enrollment in order to look at retention beyond
                        the realm of outreach and admissions contractor performance. We also
                        used one of Labor’s placement standards—the extent to which terminees
                        are placed in jobs, the military, school, or other training—as a basis for
                        selecting placement contractors to visit. Furthermore, we used the data
                        from our analysis to supplement information obtained in discussions with
                        admissions counselors and placement specialists.




                        Page 43                 GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Appendix II

Labor’s Job Corps Eligibility Criteria


                   Labor’s Policy and Requirements Handbook includes 11 eligibility
                   requirements for enrollment in Job Corps. As noted below, three of these
                   requirements—child care, parental consent, and Selective Service
                   registration—do not apply to all applicants.

                   1. Age

               •   at least 16 but not yet 25 years old at enrollment
               •   no upper age limit for those who are physically or mentally disabled

                   2. Selective Service registration

               •   all male applicants, who must sign a consent form authorizing the
                   Selective Service System to register them automatically at age 18

                   3. Legal U.S. residency

               •   a U.S. citizen or national, including naturalized citizens, or
               •   a lawfully admitted permanent resident alien, refugee, parolee, or other
                   alien permitted to accept permanent employment in the United States or
               •   a resident of a U.S. territory or
               •   a Canadian-born American Indian (“Jay Treaty Indian”)

                   4. Economic disadvantage

               •   an individual receiving or member of a family receiving cash welfare
                   payments, government-provided medical assistance, or food stamps or
               •   a foster child for whom state or local government payments are made or a
                   ward of the state or court or
               •   an individual with physical or mental disabilities that present barriers to
                   obtaining employment and whose own income meets the income criteria
                   or
               •   an individual or member of a family receiving total family income not in
                   excess of the higher of the poverty level or 70 percent of the lower living
                   standard income level

                   5. Requirement for additional education or training

               •   a school dropout or
               •   an individual in need of additional education, vocational training, or
                   related support services in order to hold meaningful employment,




                   Page 44                   GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
    Appendix II
    Labor’s Job Corps Eligibility Criteria




    participate successfully in regular school work, qualify for other suitable
    training programs, or satisfy armed forces requirements

    6. Environment

•   an individual living in an environment characterized by disruptive home
    life, unsafe, overcrowded dwelling; limited job opportunities; or disruptive
    community, high crime rates

    7. Health history

•   a drug-free individual also free of any health condition (medical, mental,
    emotional, or dental) that represents a potentially serious hazard to youths
    or others, precludes participation in Job Corps with a reasonable
    expectation of successful completion followed by employment, or requires
    intensive or costly treatment
•   an individual with a number of other health conditions that Labor’s policy
    handbook specifies for consideration
•   all applicants with disabilities, who must be referred to the regional office
    for evaluation and determination of eligibility and assessed for appropriate
    assignment to centers equipped to handle each particular disability

    8. Behavioral adjustment history

•   an individual free of behavioral problems so serious that the applicant
    cannot adjust to the standards of conduct, discipline, work, and training
    required or would prevent others from benefiting from the program or
    requires face-to-face court supervision or court-imposed financial
    obligations
•   a youth on probation or parole or under other supervision as a result of
    court action, who may be eligible only if the agency with jurisdiction states
    that the youth has responded positively to supervision, will permit the
    applicant to leave the local area or state, and will not require personal,
    face-to-face supervision during participation in the program
•   all applicants, who must sign the zero tolerance for violence certification

    9. Child care

•   all applicants with dependent children who provide primary or custodial
    care, who must have established suitable child care arrangements

    10. Parental consent



    Page 45                       GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
    Appendix II
    Labor’s Job Corps Eligibility Criteria




•   youths who have not reached the age of majority as defined by state law,
    who must have parental or legal guardian consent to participate

    11. Capability and aspirations to participate

•   all applicants, who must have the capability and aspirations to complete
    and secure the maximum benefits of Job Corps




    Page 46                       GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Appendix III

Labor’s Capability and Aspirations
Assessment Tool




               Page 47   GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Appendix III
Labor’s Capability and Aspirations
Assessment Tool




Page 48                      GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Appendix III
Labor’s Capability and Aspirations
Assessment Tool




Page 49                      GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Appendix IV

Analysis of the Relationship Between
Participant Characteristics and the
Likelihood of Remaining in Job Corps for at
Least 60 Days
               In our analysis, we examined the relationship between the characteristics
               of Job Corps participants and the likelihood of their remaining in the
               program for at least 60 days. We used the data that were available from
               Labor’s Student Pay, Allotment, and Management Information System
               (SPAMIS) on the characteristics of the more than 68,000 participants
               enrolled in Job Corps during program year 1995. We performed a
               three-stage analysis resulting in a logistic regression model that used these
               characteristics to predict the odds of a participant’s remaining in the
               program for at least 60 days.

               While the information from our analysis provides some indication of
               whether participants with specific characteristics will remain in Job Corps
               for at least 60 days, we do not intend to imply that only individuals with
               these characteristics should be enrolled in the program or that outreach
               and assessment efforts should be focused on them. Rather, this
               information is a source of insight into early program attrition for Labor’s
               use in Job Corps management. We also recognize that being in the
               program for at least 60 days indicates only longevity, not necessarily
               success.

               For our initial exploration of the data, we selected the participant
               characteristics from SPAMIS that appeared to be conceptually relevant to
               the likelihood of remaining in the program for at least 60 days. These
               included age at enrollment, distance between a participant’s home and the
               assigned Job Corps center, and educational status. We first used
               crosstabulations to examine the relationship of these variables to whether
               the participant remained in the program for 60 days. The chi-square
               statistics from these analyses showed the variables that seemed to exhibit
               no relationship to 60-day retention and helped us eliminate certain
               characteristics and select a set of variables for further analysis.18 The set
               of variables we selected is shown in table IV.1.




               18
                In some cases, we suspected that variables that showed no relationship in bivariate analysis might be
               important in multivariate analysis. In these cases, we retained the variable for subsequent analysis.



               Page 50                         GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
                                         Appendix IV
                                         Analysis of the Relationship Between
                                         Participant Characteristics and the
                                         Likelihood of Remaining in Job Corps for at
                                         Least 60 Days




Table IV.1: Percentage of Participants
Remaining in Job Corps for at Least 60                            Remained at least 60Did not remain at least Significance
Days by Selected Characteristics                                        days                 60 days                    of
                                         Characteristic             Number Percentage    Number Percentage chi-squarea
                                         Age at enrollment                                                                   .00
                                           15-17                      19,148           72%      7,539           28%
                                           18-20                      21,650           75       7,109           25
                                           21-25                       9,815           78       2,829           22
                                         Need for bilingual
                                         education                                                                           .00
                                           Spanish-English             1,067           87         163           13
                                           Other-English                 621           93          48            7
                                           No need for
                                           bilingual education        48,941           74      17,272           26
                                         Distance from home
                                         to center                                                                           .00
                                           Less than 50 miles         16,180           78       4,710           22
                                           50-149 miles               10,979           73       4,108           27
                                           150-299 miles              10,556           72       4,032           28
                                           300 miles or more          10,301           72       4,029           28
                                         High school diploma                                                                 .00
                                           No                         38,663           73      14,591           27
                                           Yes                        11,966           80       2,892           20
                                         Last school grade
                                         completed                                                                           .00
                                           0-8                         7,324           68       3,368           32
                                           9-11                       31,148           74      11,177           26
                                           12-15                      12,157           80       2,938           20
                                         Participant has
                                         dependents                                                                          .92
                                           No                         44,380           74      15,325           26
                                           Yes                         6,210           74       2,139           26
                                         Months out of school                                                                .00
                                           0-2                        13,026           75       4,245           25
                                           3-6                         9,425           74       3,383           26
                                           7-12                        9,659           74       3,436           26
                                           Over 12                    18,519           74       6,419           26
                                         Prior conviction                                                                    .00
                                           No                         48,671           74      16,665           26
                                           Yes                         1,958           70         818           30
                                                                                                                     (continued)




                                         Page 51                      GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Appendix IV
Analysis of the Relationship Between
Participant Characteristics and the
Likelihood of Remaining in Job Corps for at
Least 60 Days




                            Remained at least 60Did not remain at least Significance
                                  days                 60 days                    of
Characteristic                Number Percentage    Number Percentage chi-squarea
Prior military service                                                                             .00
  No                            50,217              74        17,385              26
  Yes                              412              81             98             19
Size of participant’s
home city or town                                                                                  .00
  Fewer than 2,500               5,361              74         1,937              26
  2,500-9,999                    5,627              72         2,238              28
  10,000-49,000                 10,301              74         3,667              26
  50,000-249,000                 8,781              74         3,160              26
  250,000 or more               20,559              76         6,481              24
Resident at the center                                                                             .00
  No                             7,384              80        11,814              20
  Yes                           43,245              73        15,669              27

a
 We used the chi-square test of independence to test for a relationship between remaining in the
program at least 60 days and the student characteristic examined. The chi-square significance
represents the probability that no relationship exists. For instance, the probability that no
relationship exists between age and remaining at least 60 days is less than 1 in 100.



With these variables, we then performed a bivariate logistic regression to
estimate the effects of each individual factor on remaining in Job Corps for
at least 60 days. The results from the regression models are stated as odds
ratios, which tell us how much more likely participants with certain
characteristics are to remain in Job Corps for at least 60 days than
participants without those characteristics. We give a chi-square test of
significance for each of these odds ratios.

To calculate the odds of a specific group remaining in Job Corps for at
least 60 days, the percentage remaining and not remaining must be
determined. For example, 26,687 participants aged 15-17 enrolled in Job
Corps during program year 1995. As shown in table IV.1, 19,148 of these
participants remained in the program for at least 60 days, while 7,539 did
not. The odds of 15-17-year-old participants remaining in the program for
at least 60 days were calculated by dividing the number remaining
(19,148) by the number not remaining (7,539). Therefore, the odds for this
group’s remaining were 2.54, meaning that 2.54 individuals remained for
every 1 who did not. Similar calculations for participants aged 18 to 20 and
21 to 25 yield higher odds of 3.04 and 3.47, respectively.




Page 52                        GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
                                         Appendix IV
                                         Analysis of the Relationship Between
                                         Participant Characteristics and the
                                         Likelihood of Remaining in Job Corps for at
                                         Least 60 Days




                                         The logistic regression model provides us with odds ratios that tell us how
                                         different the odds are for each group and whether the differences are
                                         statistically significant. For example, when the 15-17-year-old group is
                                         used as a benchmark for comparing the two other groups, the resultant
                                         odds ratios are 3.04/2.54 = 1.20 and 3.47/2.54 = 1.37 for participants aged 18
                                         to 20 and 21 to 25, respectively. Thus, the odds of 18-20-year-old
                                         participants remaining in Job Corps at least 60 days are 1.20 times the
                                         odds of 15-17-year-old participants, and the odds of 21-25-year-old
                                         participants remaining are 1.37 times the odds of 15-17-year-old
                                         participants. Odds ratios that deviate from 1.0 the most, in either direction,
                                         represent the most sizable effects (for example, odds ratios of 0.5 and 2.0
                                         represent effects that are similar in size, since 0.5 indicates that one group
                                         is half as likely as the other to remain in the program for at least 60 days,
                                         while 2.0 indicates that one group is twice as likely as the other to remain).
                                         We performed this type of bivariate analysis for each characteristic we
                                         selected. The resulting odds ratios are shown under the “bivariate results”
                                         column of table IV.2.

Table IV.2: Bivariate and Multivariate
Effects of Various Factors on the Odds                                                                         Odds ratio
of Remaining in Job Corps for at Least                                                                     Bivariate Multivariate
60 Days                                  Independent variable                                                 result       result
                                         Age at enrollment
                                           18-20 vs. 15-17                                                      1.20*         1.16*
                                           21-25 vs. 15-17                                                      1.37*         1.27*
                                         Need for bilingual education
                                           Spanish-English vs. no need                                          2.31*         1.90*
                                           Other-English vs. no need                                            4.48*         3.13*
                                         Distance from home to center
                                           Less than 50 miles vs. 300 miles or more                             1.34*         1.15*
                                           50-149 miles vs. 300 miles or more                                   1.05          1.03
                                           150-299 miles vs. 300 miles or more                                  1.02          1.00
                                         High school diploma
                                           Yes vs. no                                                           1.56*         1.02
                                         Last school grade completed
                                           0-8 vs. 12-15                                                        0.53*         0.57*
                                           9-11 vs. 12-15                                                       0.67*         0.72*
                                         Participant has dependents
                                           No vs. yes                                                           1.00          1.27*
                                         Months out of school
                                           0-2 vs. over 12                                                      1.06*         1.39*
                                                                                                                        (continued)



                                         Page 53                        GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Appendix IV
Analysis of the Relationship Between
Participant Characteristics and the
Likelihood of Remaining in Job Corps for at
Least 60 Days




                                                                                Odds ratio
                                                                           Bivariate Multivariate
Independent variable                                                          result       result
   3-6 vs. over 12                                                               0.97           1.17*
   7-12 vs. over 12                                                              0.97           1.06*
Prior conviction
   Yes vs. no                                                                    0.82*          0.94
Prior military service
   Yes vs. no                                                                    1.46*          1.28*
Size of participant’s home city or town
   2,500-9,999 vs. under 2,500                                                   0.91*          0.93
   10,000-49,000 vs. under 2,500                                                 1.02           0.95
   50,000-249,000 vs. under 2,500                                                1.00           0.97
   250,000 or over vs. under 2,500                                               1.15*          1.07*
Resident at the center
   No vs. yes                                                                    1.47*          1.20*

* Statistical significance = .05.

Note: We also included two additional characteristics (race-ethnicity and gender) in our analysis
to ensure that we had used all available and relevant data. However, for Labor to use these
characteristics to distinguish between applicants would raise serious legal concerns because, in
various rulings, the Supreme Court has made clear that using race or gender as a basis on which
to treat people differently is unconstitutional unless stringent conditions are met. We have,
therefore, not reported the coefficients for these characteristics. Although federal law generally
prohibits discrimination in federally funded programs based on a third characteristic—age—this
characteristic may be considered by Job Corps because the program legislation itself makes age
a factor.



After performing the bivariate analysis, we used the same set of variables
in a multivariate logistic regression analysis, identical to the bivariate
analysis except that it provides estimates of the effects of each
characteristic on the likelihood of remaining in the program for at least 60
days while holding constant, or controlling for, the effects of the other
characteristics. We included all factors (and levels of factors), even if their
effects were not statistically significant in the bivariate analysis because,
in some cases, effects that are suppressed in bivariate analysis emerge as
significant in multivariate analysis. Similarly, effects that were significant
in the bivariate analysis may be insignificant in the multivariate analysis.
The results of the multivariate logistic regression are shown in column 2 of
table IV.2 (“multivariate result”).

As this column shows, when we entered all variables into the model, some
variables and levels of variables had odds ratios that were not significantly



Page 54                             GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Appendix IV
Analysis of the Relationship Between
Participant Characteristics and the
Likelihood of Remaining in Job Corps for at
Least 60 Days




different from the reference category.19 We dropped these variables or, in
cases in which levels of variables were not significantly different from
other levels within the same variable, we combined levels. For instance, in
the multivariate model, the odds of remaining in Job Corps for at least 60
days for participants having a prior conviction were not significantly
different from the odds of remaining for participants not having had a
conviction. As shown in table IV.2, the odds ratio of .94 is not statistically
significant. Therefore, we dropped this variable from subsequent analysis.
Similarly, the odds of remaining for two levels of the variable “distance
from home to center” (50-149 miles and 150-300 miles) were not
significantly different from the odds of the reference category (over 300
miles). Therefore, we combined these two levels with the reference
category to create a two-level variable for subsequent analysis. Thus, we
included in the final model only the variables, and levels of variables, that
were shown to be significant in the previous multivariate analysis.

The results of this final model, as well as statistics related to how well the
model performs, are shown in table IV.3. Model performance can be
measured by the likelihood ratio method, which evaluates the probability
of the observed results, given the parameter estimates. These results are
shown under the –2 Log Likelihood (–2LL) entries in the note to table IV.3.
As shown, the model containing the predictor variables shows an
improved (smaller) –2LL compared with the model containing only the
constant (that is, the model that assumes no differential effects resulting
from individual variables). The model chi-square, which tests that the
coefficients for all the terms in the model (except the constant) are 0 (that
is, the null hypothesis), was significant at the .0000 level.




19
 The reference category is the one category against which other categories are compared. For
example, the reference category for age in table IV.2 is 15-17 years old. In this instance, 18-20-year-old
participants are compared to those 15-17 years old, as are 21-25-year-old participants.



Page 55                           GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
                                          Appendix IV
                                          Analysis of the Relationship Between
                                          Participant Characteristics and the
                                          Likelihood of Remaining in Job Corps for at
                                          Least 60 Days




Table IV.3: Final Multivariate Model of
Effects of Various Factors on the Odds    Independent variable                                                                    Odds ratio
of Remaining in Job Corps for at Least    Age at enrollment
60 Days
                                             18-20 vs. 15-17                                                                              1.15*
                                             21-25 vs. 15-17                                                                              1.27*
                                          Need for bilingual education
                                             Spanish-English vs. no need                                                                  1.90*
                                             Other-English vs. no need                                                                    3.15*
                                          Distance from home to center
                                             Less than 50 miles vs. 50 miles or more                                                      1.14*
                                          Last school grade completed
                                             12-15 vs. 0-8                                                                                1.82*
                                             12-15 vs. 9-11                                                                               1.41*
                                          Participant has dependents
                                             No vs. yes                                                                                   1.27*
                                          Months out of school
                                             0-2 vs. over 12                                                                              1.39*
                                             3-6 vs. over 12                                                                              1.17*
                                             7-12 vs. over 12                                                                             1.06*
                                          Prior military service
                                             Yes vs. no                                                                                   1.28*
                                          Size of participant’s home city or town
                                             Over 250,000 vs. under 250,000                                                               1.11*
                                          Resident at the center
                                             No vs. yes                                                                                   1.20*
                                          * Statistical significance = .05.

                                          Note: We also included two additional characteristics (race-ethnicity and gender) in our analysis
                                          to ensure that we had used all available and relevant data. However, for Labor to use these
                                          characteristics to distinguish between applicants would raise serious legal concerns because, in
                                          various rulings, the Supreme Court has made clear that using race or gender as a basis on which
                                          to treat people differently is unconstitutional unless stringent conditions are met. We have,
                                          therefore, not reported the coefficients for these characteristics. Although federal law generally
                                          prohibits discrimination in federally funded programs based on a third characteristic—age—this
                                          characteristic may be considered by Job Corps because the program legislation itself makes age
                                          a factor.

                                          Model chi-square: chi-square, 1651.166; degree of freedom, 18; significance, .0000
                                          Improvement: chi-square, 1651.166; degree of freedom,18; significance, .0000

                                          Goodness-of-fit statistics
                                          –2 Log Likelihood initial model (constant only), 74294.86
                                          –2 Log Likelihood final model, 72643.70
                                          Goodness of fit, 64973.69




                                          Page 56                             GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
                              Appendix IV
                              Analysis of the Relationship Between
                              Participant Characteristics and the
                              Likelihood of Remaining in Job Corps for at
                              Least 60 Days




Results of Multivariate       The results of our multivariate analysis revealed that older participants
Analysis                      have greater odds of remaining in the program 60 days or more. When
                              compared to 15-17-year-old participants, those aged 18 to 20 and 21 to 25
                              had odds of remaining that were 15-percent and 27-percent greater,
                              respectively. In addition, we found that participants with 12 or more years
                              of school had about 80-percent greater odds of remaining in Job Corps for
                              at least 60 days than participants with 8 years or less of school. (See table
                              IV.3.)

                              We also found a relationship between the need for bilingual education and
                              the likelihood of remaining in the program for at least 60 days. Of the
                              variables we examined, the need for bilingual education yielded the
                              highest odds ratio. Spanish-speaking participants needing bilingual
                              training had odds of remaining that were almost twice the odds of those
                              not needing bilingual education. Other non-English-speaking participants
                              needing bilingual assistance had odds that were more than 3 times the
                              odds of those not needing bilingual education.


Limitations of the Analysis   Our attempt to construct a model for predicting the characteristics of
                              participants who are more likely to remain in the program for at least 60
                              days was limited by the variables available to us in Labor’s SPAMIS extracts.
                              Most of these variables were demographic characteristics. We were unable
                              to include in the analysis measures of such things as student ability,
                              attitude, and motivation, as well as other characteristics that could
                              potentially affect the likelihood of participants remaining in the program
                              for at least 60 days.20

                              Additionally, the factors that proved to be the most useful predictors of
                              remaining in the program for at least 60 days were characteristics of small
                              subsets of participants. For example, there is evidence that participants in
                              need of bilingual education are more likely to remain, but this group made
                              up less than 3 percent of the Job Corps population. Similarly, participants
                              who had completed 12 years or more of school had odds of remaining that
                              were more than 80-percent greater than those of participants who
                              completed 8 or fewer grades, but almost two-thirds of the participants
                              were in neither of these groups. Consequently, while the model is very
                              useful in predicting whether participants with specific characteristics will
                              remain in Job Corps for at least 60 days, the model’s ability to predict
                              60-day retention for the program’s full population is limited because we

                              20
                               Although SPAMIS files include tests of adult basic educational skills, we were unable to include these
                              scores in our analysis because of problems with the data in the files we received.



                              Page 57                         GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Appendix IV
Analysis of the Relationship Between
Participant Characteristics and the
Likelihood of Remaining in Job Corps for at
Least 60 Days




found no large subgroups with great differences. Finally, in this analysis,
we examined only main effects for the variables we investigated. An
examination of the interactions among the variables might produce useful
information and improve the predictive ability of the model.




Page 58                      GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Appendix V

Data Supporting Report Figures


Table V.1: Percentage of Program Year
1995 Terminees Not Placed by Age         Age at termination                                                   Not placed
(Data for Fig. 1)                        16                                                                         44.9%
                                         17                                                                         36.1
                                         18                                                                         30.5
                                         19                                                                         28.4
                                         20                                                                         24.8
                                         21                                                                         24.5
                                         22                                                                         23.5
                                         23                                                                         23.3
                                         24                                                                         22.7
                                         25+                                                                        14.9

Table V.2: Comparison of Program
Year 1995 Placement Rates for                                                                Placed using Placed using
Selected Contractors (Data for Fig. 2)                                                            existing    modified
                                         Placement contractor                                methodology methodology
                                         A                                                            83.7%         87.3%
                                         B                                                            65.1          74.3
                                         C                                                            64.3          76.3
                                         D                                                            54.2          65.6
                                         E                                                            76.5          86.6
                                         F                                                            63.4          69.2
                                         G                                                            73.5          87.1
                                         H                                                            78.3          82.9
                                         I                                                            73.2          82.3
                                         J                                                            80.1          84.5
                                         K                                                            59.6          62.2
                                         L                                                            84.7          89.5




                                         Page 59                GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
                                        Appendix V
                                        Data Supporting Report Figures




Table V.3: Percentage of Program Year
1995 Enrollees Staying in Program for   Outreach and admissions contractor                                        Enrollees
Less Than 30 Days (Data for Fig. I.1)   A                                                                                1.2%
                                        B                                                                              12.9
                                        C                                                                              18.6
                                        D                                                                              10.6
                                        E                                                                              12.0
                                        F                                                                              12.1
                                        G                                                                              10.1
                                        H                                                                                7.5
                                        I                                                                              10.0
                                        J                                                                              12.3
                                        K                                                                              17.9

Table V.4: Program Year 1995
Placement Rates (Data for Fig. I.2)                                                                               Enrollees
                                        Placement contractor                                                        placed
                                        A                                                                              83.7%
                                        B                                                                              65.1
                                        C                                                                              64.3
                                        D                                                                              54.2
                                        E                                                                              76.5
                                        F                                                                              63.4
                                        G                                                                              73.5
                                        H                                                                              78.3
                                        I                                                                              73.2
                                        J                                                                              80.1
                                        K                                                                              59.6
                                        L                                                                              84.7




                                        Page 60                    GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Appendix VI

Comments From the Department of Labor




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Comments From the Department of Labor




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                  Comments From the Department of Labor




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                  Page 66                   GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
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                    Comments From the Department of Labor




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                    Comments From the Department of Labor




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                    Comments From the Department of Labor




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                Appendix VI
                Comments From the Department of Labor




Now on p. 38.




See p. 50.




                Page 71                   GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Appendix VII

GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments


                  Sigurd R. Nilsen, Assistant Director, (202) 512-7003
GAO Contacts      Wayne Sylvia, Evaluator-in-Charge, (617) 565-7492


                  In addition to the contacts named above, the following persons made
Acknowledgments   important contributions to this report: Thomas N. Medvetz, Wayne Dow,
                  Deborah Edwards, Jeremiah Donoghue, Robert Crystal, and Sylvia Shanks.




                  Page 72                 GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Appendix VII
GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments




Page 73                   GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Appendix VII
GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments




Page 74                   GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Appendix VII
GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments




Page 75                   GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
Related GAO Products


              Job Corps: Where Participants Are Recruited, Trained, and Placed in Jobs
              (GAO/HEHS-96-140, July 17, 1996).

              Employment Training: Successful Projects Share Common Strategy
              (GAO/HEHS-96-108, May 7, 1996).

              Job Corps: Comparison of Federal Program With State Youth Training
              Initiatives (GAO/HEHS-96-92, Mar. 28, 1996).

              Job Corps: High Costs and Mixed Results Raise Questions About
              Program’s Effectiveness (GAO/HEHS-95-180, June 30, 1995).




(205329)      Page 76                GAO/HEHS-98-1 Job Corps Recruitment and Placement Process
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