Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can provide assistance to unemployed workers. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Job training for specialized skills: Adult vocational training provides education and hands-on learning opportunities for individuals to acquire specialized occupational skills. There is strong evidence that adult vocational training programs increase earnings and employment.

  • Provided by schools or government programs: Adult vocational training is most commonly provided through community colleges or government programs. Community colleges offer vocational certification and licensure programs, typically through some combination of in-class learning and applied apprenticeship opportunities. Government programs can be led by local jurisdictions or through federal programs (e.g., Job Corps). Local workforce investment boards often play a role in initiating, managing, or supporting vocational training programs.

  • Supporting disadvantaged workers: Adult vocational training programs are generally geared toward individuals with limited job experience or education or those who are unemployed. Some vocational programs target specific populations, such as young adults or formerly incarcerated individuals.

  • Employment training and assistance: Vocational training programs can offer a range of personal developmental resources, technical skill development opportunities, and job search supports. These programs are typically targeted toward a specific sector or certification (e.g., tech, healthcare, hospitality). Programs sometimes offer the opportunity for participants to earn a high school diploma or GED in conjunction with their vocational training.

  • Flexibility of format: Adult vocational training programs vary in structure, duration, and time required. Programs may be conducted online or in-person, and often incorporate both classroom and worksite-based learning opportunities. Additionally, programs may be structured using either full-time or part-time formats.

Multiple studies with rigorous designs demonstrate that adult vocational training is a well-supported strategy for increasing earnings and employment.

  • Partner with local employers: By partnering with area employers, vocational training programs can ensure their offerings match the needs of the local labor market. Programs should seek guidance on which skills are most in demand and which credentials are most attractive to employers. In addition, strong relationships with area employers may improve the chances of program trainees securing employment at those firms (e.g., by increasing familiarity among hiring managers of the match between trainees’ skills and the employer’s needs).

  • Conduct pre-enrollment counselor meetings: Because vocational training programs require a commitment from participants, and because many program options tend to be available, participants may benefit from meeting with a career counselor prior to entering a program. This counselor should discuss barriers to employment, the type of training someone is seeking and which programs they are considering, their budget for training costs, among other issues. Holding these meetings can ensure that participants select the program that best fits their needs and are ready and able to commit for the duration of training.

  • Divide training into multiple discrete courses: Training credentials may be more attainable for participants when they are earned through shorter, segmented courses rather than after completing longer-term training programs. Offering training in smaller courses ensures that trainees only participate in the courses they actually need, and may reduce attrition. For example, a healthcare training program could offer a series of courses that prepare students for progressively higher-paying healthcare occupations (e.g., nursing assistant, patient care technician, licensed practical nurse), with students able to exit the program with a certification after completing any of the levels.

  • Provide comprehensive services: Adult vocational training programs should remove as many barriers to participation as possible for participants. This support may include offering services such as childcare or transportation, or providing financial compensation for participants. Vouchers or other payments can make it financially feasible for participants to commit time to training sessions and also act as an incentive for continued participation.