In this commentary originally published in Route Fifty, experts from MDRC’s Center for Applied Behavioral Science and BIT North America describe how government agencies can use behavioral science to adapt policies, programs, and services during the continuing pandemic crisis.
Meeting the Needs of Workers and Employers
Low-wage workers have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, experiencing greater levels of unemployment than their higher-wage-earning peers. Training programs that focus on moving workers into skilled jobs in industries with strong local demand could reposition them for 21st-century success.
Career and Technical Education Connects the Dots
The economic recession triggered by the global pandemic has magnified the need for high-quality programs that can help students acquire the skills, training, and postsecondary credentials they need to thrive in the workplace. Here are some programs that studies show improved academic outcomes and increased earnings.
A Synthesis of Findings on Sector Strategies
Job seekers with low incomes face numerous hurdles to finding and keeping high-quality jobs. Sector strategies address those hurdles by matching job seekers with skills training for specific industries or occupations where there is a growing demand. This review examines a cross-section of strategies, highlighting successes and areas for improvement.
Many schools are using technology-based tools to generate career recommendations and supplement the capabilities of their guidance departments. MDRC has partnered with two technology companies to test whether their career-advising software programs are viable tools for equitably supporting students as they identify and pursue future careers.
An Interview with Karen Pennington and Dawn Slinkard
Tulsa Community WorkAdvance is a sector-based training and career advancement program that prepares people for jobs in the health care field. Executive Director Karen Pennington talks about the impact of COVID-19 on operations and future opportunities in health care, and graduate Dawn Slinkard describes her experience in the program.
A Better Life is an economic mobility program operating in four housing authorities in Massachusetts. This brief discusses how the program has shifted to meet residents’ dramatically different needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Practical Advice from Richard Guare and Colin Guare
This Issue Focus offers guidance to social service programs seeking to help participants progress toward their goals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Techniques are described for alleviating social isolation, communicating remotely, setting and achieving goals, getting medication, assessing workplace safety, applying for public benefits, working from home, and managing grief.
Next Steps for Research
The paper summarizes past and ongoing research, identifies gaps in knowledge, and presents four categories of potential questions to help define future research in employment and training programs serving low-income people.
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the nation’s awareness of the critical role that low-wage workers — cashiers, nursing assistants, delivery people — play in our lives. MDRC’s Cynthia Miller summarizes research about how expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit can effectively supplement their earnings and lead to other positive benefits for them and their families.