A Baker’s Dozen of Tips for a Successful Job Training Program


Jobs! Training! Jobs! Training! Jobs!

I don’t know about you, but those words have remained on front pages, home pages, TV lead stories, and in government press releases, long after the Great Recession (supposedly) ended.

And, so much money and resources have been expended in this area, that you might have thought the government efforts would have yielded better results than they have, so far.

While I do not pretend to have a ‘magic bullet’ for solving this huge national crisis, I would like to share with you some winning strategies for increasing your positive outcomes. (I wish to thank a friend from my job training program days for inspiring me to cover this area in my waning time as a GovLoop Guest Blogger.)

#1 Not every job program counselor is qualified to work with every type of customer. Some will relate better with women than with men. Or vice versa. Some admire the sacrifices of veterans, while others hold resentment over their missions. Some work better with minority customers than other counselors do. You will have some staff who are better than others in assisting those who are best suited for work in the human service field, while others are more effective in placing those who are interested in business, technology, or in other science-related industries. — How do you tell who works better with which type of customer? Well, there is always your personal observations. But there is also data. Check out success rates. (But be logical and thorough when evaluating the data.)

#2 Along these lines, too often staff is made to conduct job-related workshops when they are ill-prepared to be facilitators. Successful workshop leaders have great communication and teaching skills.

#3 Passion. Job counselors need to be passionate about their work. If they are burned-out, respect that. Perhaps you need to assign them to tasks that do not involve direct customer contact.

#4 Veterans. I admire them, greatly. However, young veterans, despite taking on very adult responsibilities are also still maturing. The fact that there is free job training and placement assistance, does not mean that they are ready at this moment in time for taking proper advantage of the opportunities that are being offered to them. They might be ready or they might need more time before committing to intensive training programs, outside of the military.

#5 Any young, recently-post-adolescent trainee should be evaluated for an emotional, time, and effort commitment. Remember, they are still coming into their own, as an adult. (Actually, any applicant for training should be evaluated for more than a program’s most basic eligibility guidelines.)

#6 Staff can only work with X-number of customers at a time. I know that you have a limited staff budget. And, there are caseload expectations to be met, which have often been negotiated with regulators/funders. However, this is where strong administrators must shine! They need to hold to realistic caseloads.

#7 Speaking of realistic outcome goals, don’t simply accept what a funding source ‘throws your way’. You need to do your homework. You need to acknowledge that customers living in different parts of your city, county, or state, will have different job opportunities available to them after training is ended. Likewise, the educational and home backgrounds of customers can vary greatly from area to area. Successful programs know that they must collect and evaluate lots of key data before committing to specific program outcomes.

#8 Transportation is often one of the weakest links in the employment chain. Do not assume that even a motivated customer is going to have the means to get to work sites, easily.

#9 Don’t be so desperate for customers that you accept ones who are not likely to be a good match for what you have to offer. Warm bodies’ alone, do not equal successful job placements.

#10 Follow-up. Don’t accept more customers than you have qualified staff who will have the means, including the time, to do regular, thorough follow-up.

#11 Successful job training programs need to be reviewed on a steady basis. What was successful during the prior program year might not be so great this year.

#12 Staff turnover can mean that you should tweak the program. The skills and experience of the person that left is apt to be different than their replacement’s. Plus, there is always a period of adjustment when there is someone new on board.

#13 Don’t re-invent the wheel! Or, repeat history. Look at successful programs around the country, including in your own backyard. And then decide where to tweak your new program year’s design.

So, there are my baker’s dozen of tips for operating a successful job training program. Good luck!

Russell A. Irving is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Patrick Fiorenza

Could spin each of these out into their own posts…But feel like #11 is a big one, and expanding on it, there is always a need to have clear objectives aligned with key metrics. There’s so much measurement, goal setting and to truly make sure that your program achieves, or works toward, anticipated outcomes. Feels like this process needs to be more than just a check the box – if there’s a requirement due the15th of every month, those are natural times to review status and the program, rather than just quickly send off required documents.

Russell Irving

Thank you, Patrick, for the comments. You are correct in that I could have made a separate post for each of these, but, alas, my time as a Guest Blogger is almost at an end. So, hopefully, these will stimulate discussion. (Plus I am available for trainings…. ‘Shameless plug’… )