VA Wants Better Data on Employment Outcomes of ‘Promising’ Technical Training Pilot, Watchdog Says

The Department of Veterans Affairs should better analyze the effectiveness of its “prospective” technology education pilot program to determine how well it is helping veterans find jobs, according to a report released Thursday by the Government Accountability Office.

Gao’s report analyzed the training courses of veterans V.A PTEK— a pilot program that is open to veterans who are eligible for educational assistance under the GI Bill. The report says the pilot is designed to “help veterans quickly acquire high-tech skills in computer programming, computer software, media applications, data processing or information science.”

PTEK was created after the passage of Art Harry W. Colmer Veterans Education Assistance Act—also known as the Forever GI bill—in 2017, which ordered the department to create a pilot program to “provide eligible veterans with the opportunity to enroll in high-tech educational programs.” The five-year pilot, which officially launched in 2019 with $15 million in annual funding, has since received additional funding support from Congress, with Consolidated Appropriations Act— which was signed in March 2022 — authorized an additional $80 million for the program.

The GAO found that more than 6,700 veterans enrolled in VET TEC between May 2019 and May 2022, with approximately 66% of applicants completing the program. But the report notes that the VA failed to effectively measure the employment rate of program graduates, meaning “VA may be inadvertently spreading inaccurate information about VET TEC’s success in employing veterans who graduate from the program.”

“VA is calculating the employment measure for certain VET TEC participants for whom VA has made a final milestone payment decision,” the report said. “However, VA does not calculate employment rates for all VET TEC participants who complete the program, consistent with other state and industry approaches. As a result, VA lacks sufficient information to compare VET TEC to other programs or to evaluate the program’s effectiveness in employing veterans.”

Although the VA reported that 66% of all VET TEC participants were employed 180 days or more after completing the program, a GAO analysis that included all VET TEC participants, regardless of when they graduated, found that only 46% of program graduates were employed.

The report also notes that the VA also failed to account for the 13% of veterans who dropped out of the program because VA officials “do not systematically collect or analyze data to understand why some enrollees drop out.”

Previous GAO report of February 2022, which provided “preliminary comments” on the pilot program, noted similar concerns about the program, finding at the time that “VA has not yet implemented most of the best practices for effective pilot design, except for stakeholder communications.”

“Specifically, VA has no documented measurable program goals,” the previous report said. “Therefore, VA cannot yet determine an evaluation methodology or evaluation plan to measure the effectiveness of the pilot.”

The latest GAO report identified a number of positive benefits of the pilot, including its high completion rate and high diversity of enrollees. The report found that veterans enrolled in VET TECs “tend to be more racially and ethnically diverse and more likely to have a service-related illness,” such as an illness or injury acquired or aggravated during their military service, than “working-age veterans.” . »

But GAO once again found that the lack of “consistent, clear, and measurable program goals” made it difficult to determine the program’s effectiveness.

“As a result, evaluating and evaluating the VET TEC by the end of the pilot is likely to be difficult for VA,” the report said.

The GAO made six recommendations to the VA, including that the department “develop an employment rate calculation consistent with standard approaches” and “identify the data needed to provide comprehensive information on employment outcomes.”

VA agreed with five of the GAO’s recommendations, but disagreed or disagreed with the recommendation to create a standardized employment rate calculation, saying it is “conducting an environmental scan of the employment rate calculations used in similar programs to assess the appropriateness, applicability, and whether it is appropriate to implement with the vocational training program”.

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