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Study Backs Job Skill Plan for Welfare Moms

IF a welfare mother is given job training and education related to a specific job, she's far more likely to increase her employability and wages than if she's given remedial education first. That is the finding of a Rockefeller Foundation study released today, summarized in a report, ``More Jobs and Higher Pay.''

The $12 million demonstration and study looked at the 12-month outcomes of projects operated by community-based organizations in Providence, R.I.; Atlanta; Washington, D.C.; and San Jose, Calif.

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The first three projects were typical of most welfare-to-work programs. They offered extensive testing and remedial education to participants. Those who stuck with it then received some job training.

In San Jose, the model was different. There, the Center for Employment Training offered no testing at the beginning of the program. Women in the program were immediately given specific skills-training for specific jobs.

Instead of broad remedial education, participants received basic education tailored to job requirements and integrated with their skills training.

The cost per participant of San Jose's program was about $3,500, comparable to the other cities' programs emphasizing schooling first.

But the payoff was dramatically greater: There was a 27 percent increase in employment and a 47 percent increase in earnings among mothers who were in the program compared with a control group. The other cities showed no significant difference in the success of the mothers in or out of the program in the job market.

The study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., is based on data from a sample of 4,000 applicants. It's the first major study to examine programs combining education and job training for mothers on welfare.

The study has singificant implications for federal job-training efforts throughout the United States.

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STATES are now preparing to implement the Family Support Act of 1988, under which the federal government will invest up to $1 billion a year in Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS), a program designed to move mothers on welfare into the workforce. Rockefeller sources would like to see the money spent on the more broad-based approach.

``Programs requiring remediation first take women who already failed at school and plunks them right back into the same classroom environment,'' says Dr. Phoebe Cottingham, project director for the Rockefeller Foundation Minority Female Single Parent Demonstration.

``Too few participants in these traditional programs make it past basic skills instruction to job-skill training. So if states putting JOBS programs into place insist on using only the schooling-first approach, they run the risk of failing.''

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