Job Skills Training Leads to Long-Term Reduction in Drug Abuse

Offering basic job services doesn’t help, study finds
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Job Skills Training Leads to Long-Term Reduction in Drug Abuse

Job skills training for low-income youth does more than just help them get better jobs – it makes them significantly less likely than others to use some illicit drugs, even 16 years later, a new study found.

These positive effects on drug use were seen in those who received job-specific skills training, but not in youth who received only basic job services, such as help with job search or a General Education Development (GED) program.

Results showed that the use of illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin (not including marijuana) declined for youth who received job-skills training, down to 2.8 percent after 16 years. However, illicit drug use increased for those who received only basic services, up to 5.2 percent in the same time.

“We have to look at what kind of job services we provide low-income youth, because they don’t all provide the same level of benefits,” said Sehun Oh, lead author of the study and assistant professor of social work at The Ohio State University. “There were positive spillover effects from job training on drug misuse, which we did not see in youth who were provided only more basic services.”

The study appears in the June 2020 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The results are important because the federal and state governments emphasize a “job-first” approach that focuses on helping adults in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program obtain immediate employment, Oh said.