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Report measures results of Travis County workforce development programs

Monday, August 1, 2011 by Michael Kanin

The results of a lengthy study of Travis County’s involvement in a host of local employment assistance programs are in and by the looks of it, the county’s partnership with at least one – Capital IDEA – is working out rather well.


Though detailed data isn’t yet available, early evaluations of the hard fiscal benefit of participation in the Capital IDEA program shows that for every dollar of county investment in the program over 10 years, county taxpayers see $1.65 worth of reductions in “welfare and food stamp payments and increased tax receipts.”


That figure amounts to an annualized return rate of 9 percent.


Study authors say that over 20 years that number jumps to $5.01 for every dollar invested, an annualized return of 17 percent. According to the study, Travis taxpayers “fully recoup” their investment after eight-and-a-half years with the program.


“I don’t know about you, but I would be happy if I had returns on my IRA that looked like that,” according to Christopher King of the Ray Marshall Center at the University of Texas.


Capital IDEA is a local organization. According to its web site, it “serves the community by acting as a bridge, connecting committed, yet underemployed people to employers in need of highly skilled workers.”


The organization is the only county-funded partner that provides long-term job training.


Officials with the Marshall Center performed the study, looking at data from 2003 through 2008. Their findings include the fact that 76 percent of program participants were still employed three-and-a-half years after their time with Capital IDEA. Seven years after they left the program, participants “out-earn(ed) comparison group members by more than $3,000 per quarter.”


County Executive for Health and Human Services Sherri Fleming gave the court a quick history of Travis’ relationship with the Marshall Center. She reminded court members that “five to six years ago,” the body “infused additional resources into our workforce development program.”


Fleming said that around the same time, the county brought the Marshall Center on board to “look at the impact of the investments that you make, and if there is in fact a value added to your investment.”


Things weren’t all rosy for the county. “Findings from this study and others around the country show that a focus on middle skills jobs – those requiring a postsecondary credential and at least a year’s worth of college credits – has the most significant impact on employment and earnings over time,” the report said.


Only one of the groups that the county works with delivers that service. “More work is needed to expand middle skill training opportunities to serve a larger segment of the Travis County population,” according to the study.

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