Over the past several decades, job search support groups, commonly referred to as “job clubs,” have evolved into one of several important activities used by the public workforce system and faith- and community-based organizations to enhance worker readiness and employability, as well as to provide ongoing support to unemployed and underemployed individuals as they search for jobs. The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) contracted in September 2012 with Capital Research Corporation, Inc. and George Washington University to conduct an assessment of job clubs sponsored by faith-based and community-based organizations (FBOs/CBOs). The overall purpose of this evaluation effort was to systematically describe the key characteristics of job clubs being offered by a range of faith- and community- based organizations, document how they differ from and are similar to the job clubs operated by publicly-funded workforce agencies (such as at American Job Centers [AJCs]), and identify potential approaches that might be used for more rigorous formal evaluation of impacts and effectiveness.
Findings from the telephone interviews with stakeholders and in-person interviews with facilitators during the site visits indicate that job clubs operated by FBOs, CBOs and public workforce agencies are alike in many ways, with all of them emphasizing the critical importance of: (1) networking during the job search; (2) offering ongoing peer support and sharing of similar experiences among participants; and (3) providing instruction and guidance on the basics of the job search process (e.g., elevator pitches, resume development, job interview practice). Noteworthy differences between the FBO/CBO job clubs and those operated by public workforce agencies are related to staffing patterns and available resources for program operations and services. While public workforce agency job clubs are led by paid professional staff, supported by the full complement of workshops, activities, and other services typically available through AJCs/One-Stop Centers, FBO/CBO job clubs, in most cases, operate with limited budgets or no funding whatsoever. Additionally, compared with public sector agencies, FBOs/CBOs typically collect little in the way of participant-level data, such as participant identifiers, demographic characteristics, service receipt, or outcomes. Finally, although this report suggests several approaches to future rigorous experimental/non-experimental and process/implementation evaluation of FBO/CBO-sponsored job clubs, there are likely to be formidable challenges to implementation of rigorous evaluation methods because these job clubs rarely collect identifying information on participants, such as Social Security numbers, and are generally opposed to random assignment for their programs.