Investigation of Placement Outcomes 3 Years after a Job Skills Training Program for Chronically Unemployed Adults

Article excerpt

This analysis of chronically unemployed job seekers after they completed a comprehensive job skills training program reveals dynamic interpersonal and intrapersonal characteristics that have an impact on job-finding success. Of primary interest in this study was the relationship between R. B. Cattell's (1988) second-order personality factors and participants' employment status 3 years after they graduated from the job skills program. Furthermore, U.S. Department of Labor worker trait classifications, such as aptitude, academic achievement, work history, and Holland's hexagonal definitions of career interest were also analyzed (United States Employment Service, 1972). Relatively robust correlations between job holding status and 2 of the second-order personality factors on Cattell's Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire were illuminated: Independence and Objectivity.

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The world of work in the United States has been rapidly changing over the past 2 decades. These years have been marked by an increasingly diverse workforce, quantum leaps in multiple technologies, and a more globally interdependent economy (Niles & Harris-Bowlsbey, 2002). The chronically unemployed are particularly vulnerable to these changes, yet scant attention has been given in the literature to the career needs of these individuals (Donohoe & Patton, 1998).

Workers or individuals who are seeking work must attempt to adjust to the current climate in which there is more part-time work than full-time work; there is downsizing; layoffs are not uncommon; and there is a loss of reliance on long-term, career-ladder structures (Zunker, 2002). Additionally, as these trends evolve, more adult workers will find themselves underemployed or unemployed at some point during their working lives (Reardon, Lenz, Sampson, & Peterson, 2000).

Developmentally minded career theorists and counselors such as Donald Super (1957) have long asserted that career guidance should not be a single-point-in-time phenomenon but one that should occur throughout the stages of an individual's life (Herr, 1992; Zunker, 2002). No longer is it commonplace to choose one's vocation after the culmination of formal education and stay with it for life. Rather, there is an ongoing need for skill and knowledge development in the context of the aforementioned trends toward significant and steady workforce change.

The U.S. federal government funds services that are designed to help adults, especially long-term unemployed adults, in the career transition process. Two prime examples of such legislation are the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act of 1998, which is geared toward vocational education programs at the secondary and postsecondary levels, and the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which is designed to improve employment, literacy, and training opportunities. The provision of career counseling in these acts of Congress acknowledges that chronically unemployed job seekers need help not just in skill development but also in job seeking and job keeping activities. Developing a clear understanding of how workers think, act, and feel as they seek and find work can be a daunting but important challenge to both counselors and employers.

In this study, the placement and job retention records of graduates of a comprehensive vocational training program for the chronically unemployed were examined 3 years after program completion in order to attempt to illuminate predictor variables that might differentiate between individuals who succeeded in finding and keeping jobs and those who did not. Such information might be useful in training programs for job seekers to determine how curricula can be refined to maximize the vocational potential of adults who typically cannot find or keep a steady job.

Of particular interest in this study was the relationship between second order factors from Cattell's Clinical Analysis Questionnaire (CAQ; Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, 1970) and employment status following the training program. …