Graduates of the NIEHS Environmental Career Worker Training Program (ECWTP) earned nearly $10 million more per year in combined salary than peers who did not receive the training, according to Benjamin Artz, Ph.D., from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
Artz presented an economic impact report summarizing ECWTP’s many achievements during the Oct. 17 Keystone Science Lecture. ECWTP provides opportunities for individuals from disadvantaged and underserved communities to find careers in environmental cleanup, construction, hazardous waste removal, and emergency response by training students in personal, interpersonal, and pre-employment skills, and by providing apprenticeships. The ECWTP is the only National Institutes of Health program designated as a pilot for the Justice40 program.
“We’ve always tried to look at the return on investment, and how we can show the depth and the breadth of the benefits and outcomes of this program,” said ECWTP Director Sharon Beard, who hosted the lecture.
To evaluate ECWTP’s impact on individuals, the economy, and the federal government, Artz used data collected through the program between 2014 and 2022. He compared the outcomes of ECWTP trainees with the outcomes of people with similar characteristics who were not ECWTP-trained, and those who dropped out of the program.
Artz found significant improvements in individual earnings, safety savings, hiring costs to employers, crime cost savings, effects on taxes and transfers, community involvement, and COVID-related unemployment savings.
According to his analysis, those who completed ECWTP training were 70% more likely to be employed than those who had not. Trainees worked about three more hours per week and earned approximately 30% more per hour on average than workers with similar characteristics who did not complete training. This translates into ECWTP graduates earning about $221,000 more across their working lifetimes and a combined program earnings benefit of $996 million for the 4,500 trainees enrolled during the study period.
“The bulk of this report involves a lot of scary math, involving unfamiliar terms like discounting, present values, and depreciations,” said Artz, an economist and expert at industrial relations. “But that increase in earnings is a very concrete impact for the program.”
Return on investment
When compared to other existing workforce development programs, Artz’s calculations showed ECWTP leading the way in terms of the greatest effect on earnings following training. ECWTP trainees experienced a 34.5% increase in earnings in the year following training compared with WorkAdvance Towards Employment (14%); WorkAdvance Madison Strategies (12.4%); WorkAdvance St. Nick’s (1.3%); and Sectoral Employment Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (27.4%).
“Now we have data from the full life of this program demonstrating that the more money we invest in the ECWTP, the more return we see on our investment,” said Beard. “That speaks to the scalability of the program. We have the right model to get results. The program is doing what it was designed to do, and it is making a difference in people’s lives.”
(W. Fawn Dorr is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)