What Works in Workforce Development?

If you’re looking for a concise summary of what works in workforce development, I can highly recommend a new piece, “Can Workforce Development Help Us Reach Full Employment,” from the Brookings Institution’s Harry Holzer.  This analysis summarizes decades of research on what works—and what doesn’t—in terms of various workforce development programs based at job centers, K-12 systems, higher education, and many other sources. 

This is a comprehensive review, so a full summary is challenging.  But, a few high points stand out.  Most workforce training programs generate positive, yet often modest, benefits. A small subset, especially customized training for high-demand fields, generate largescale positive effects. Meanwhile, supporting at-risk or hard-to-employ individuals remains a big challenge.

Holzer concludes with a few overarching future suggestions.  He strongly supports continued and perhaps expanded funding for training programs, but focuses especially on how best to support those who are hard-to-employ due to disabilities or other factors. For these workers, job subsidies and other supports may be needed to help them break into and remain in the workforce.