Reinforcing Productivity in a Job-Skills Training Program for Unemployed Substance-Abusing Adults

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Abstract

Chronically unemployed adults may benefit from intensive job-skills training; however, training programs do not always reliably engage participants in mastering skills. This study examined effects of voucher reinforcement for performance on a job-skills training program in the therapeutic workplace. Participants were 4 unemployed, substance abusing adults who earned monetary vouchers for working on programs targeting typing skills. Participants were exposed to 2 payment conditions that differed in whether or not pay was dependent on performance in a within-subject reversal design. In the productivity-pay condition, participants earned $8.00 per hour for attending the workplace plus a bonus for performance. In the base-pay condition, participants were paid an hourly wage that was equivalent to the total hourly earnings from the previous productivity-pay condition. Participants completed less work on the typing programs in the base-pay than the productivity-pay condition, but the amount of time spent in the workroom and the accuracy and rate of typing were not affected by the pay manipulation. All participants reported preferring base pay over productivity pay. Explicit reinforcement of productivity maintains consistent work in training programs, but more aspects of productivity pay need to be refined for effective, efficient, and socially valid implementation with unemployed, substance-abusing adults.

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