The effectiveness of skills training for improving outcomes in supported employment

Authors: Mueser, K. T., Becker, D. R., & Wolfe, R.
Year Published 2005
Publication Psychiatric Services
Volume 56
Number 10
Pages 1254-1260

Supported employment for individuals with mental illness is recognized as an evidenced based practice. Although this approach is more successful at assisting individuals with mental illness with gaining and maintaining work, than other traditional means, better outcomes related to job retention is needed.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of a supplementary skills training program on employment outcomes for individuals who were receiving supported employment services.


The study took place at an employment support organization that is funded by State vocational rehabilitation.


Thirty five individuals who were enrolled in a supported employment program and had a diagnosis of severe or persistent mental illness participated in the study. Among these individuals, the majority or 80% were men and 97% were non-Hispanic white. About a third or 30% had graduated from secondary education. The mean age was 38 years.

Data Collection

Those who consented to participate, completed a Workplace Fundamentals Knowledge Test. Afterwards they were randomly assigned to receive supported employment services alone or to receive supported employment services and the supplementary skills training about workplace fundamentals. Individuals were assigned to the group on an average of 56 days after obtaining a job. Among the 35 participants, 18 received treatment as usual (supported employment services alone) the rest were assigned to the receive the work fundamentals training too. Chi square test and t test indicated no significant difference in the two groups. Workplace knowledge was measured with the Workplace Fundamental Knowledge Test scores at baseline and at nine month intervals. Rates of employment for each month of the study period for individuals who recently went to work was documented by control group and workplace fundamentals group. These rates were compared using a generalized estimating equations analysis. The researchers also compared cumulative time worked, wages earned and job tenure for the first and subsequent jobs held. Mann-Whitney tests were used because that data was skewed. Vocational services used were also analyzed with Mann-Whitney tests.


The control group was the participants who only received supported employment services and did not attend the workplace skills training.


During the study period, participants held a total of 49 different jobs. Forty three percent of the sample worked in the same job during the study period (18 months), others were laid off, fired or quit their jobs. The majority had disclosed their psychiatric disability to their employers. Individuals who attended the workplace fundamentals program received higher scores on the Workplace Fundamentals Knowledge Test than those who did not. Although more individuals who attended the supplementary training were working during the study period this trend was not significant. Earnings and hours worked was not significant either. Both groups used comparable amounts and intensity of employment services. Job tenures for the first job for participants was 331.6 days for workplace fundamentals group and 288.5 for the control group.


The workplace fundamentals program may not be an effective addition to supported employment services, but more research is needed.

Disabilities Emotional disturbance
Populations Black / African American | White / Caucasian | Male & Female
Outcomes Increase in hours worked | Increase in tenure | Wages
Research Design Quasi-experimental
Peer Reviewed Yes