Recruitment and retention were reported to be effective when each partner played an active role during the early stages of program development and a continuing role in supporting program goals. Involvement went beyond leaders, however, to include learners themselves, who helped gather materials and made suggestions for expanding the collection of custom-designed materials. It was usually those closest to the job who knew what strategies would be most effective in gathering information and solving job problems. Active participation of partners sometimes meant supervisors and top job performers helping to analyze job tasks and suggesting materials and approaches which they found effective in preparing new workers.
A few specific examples of effective workplace programs can help illustrate these elements of effective programs. Earlier references to the military programs described by Sticht (1982) and to the computerized JSEP program described by Haigler (1990) touched on these elements. Now we will examine examples provided by Hargroves (1989) and Mikulecky and Strange (1986).
Boston Federal Reserve Bank's Skills Development Center
Hargroves (1989) described a well-established workplace basic skills program in the banking industry. She presented the results of a 15 year study which compared Federal Reserve Bank Skills Center basic skills trainees to a peer group of entry level workers at the Bank in terms of: (1) the effectiveness of training in helping under-educated youth catch up; (2) retention; (3) job performance; and (4) earning power.
The Bank's skills development program integrated basic skills with clerical training, supervised work experience, and counseling. Trainees came into the program because they lacked basic skills which were needed in most clerical jobs. Though 50% of the trainees had graduated from high school, half read at or below the eighth grade level. Two out of three Skills trainees attended long enough to complete an extensive class and on-the-job training program leading to job placement at the Bank.
Hargroves gathered information on 207 Skills Center trainees from 1973 to 1988 and compared their employment data to that of 301 Bank employees hired for entry-level positions from 1974 to 1986. Her results indicated that several months of formal training combined with on-the-job experience and counseling enabled under-educated youth to catch up to typical entry-level workers. Two thirds of the trainees (who would not otherwise have been eligible for employment) were placed in jobs. The trainees, on the average, stayed longer than their entry-level peers, despite the fact that in the late 1980s there was a low unemployment rate and ample job opportunities outside the Bank. The majority of Skills Center graduates earned as much as their entry-level peers who were both more educated and more experienced.
In summary, the program produced a supply of employees who were trained as well or better than other new entry-level employees and understood the Bank's employment practices; it also provided trainees to departments on short notice for extra clerical help. (p. 67)
The Hargroves study highlighted several elements key to program success: (1) integrating basic skills, clerical skills, work experience, and intensive counseling; (2) self- paced and often one-on-one instruction focusing on competence; (3) connections to community agencies for recruitment; and (4) good communications with Bank supervisors in order to develop job placements.