In 1970, the Center for the Study of Human Resources was established by Ray Marshall to support the research of pressing social and economic problems facing American workers. The Center’s first three projects focused on black employment in the South, comparing apprenticeship with other training routes to skilled employment in construction and the South’s rural workforce. These projects not only provided high-quality research on timely issues, but did so with a focus on providing practical recommendations to improve strategies, practices, and knowledge. This type of action research has driven the Center’s activities ever since.
Research on rural labor markets led to a focus on agricultural work. For example, local growers groups in the Rio Grande Valley encountered difficulties finding workers despite the region’s high unemployment rates. Center researchers identified the reasons for these difficulties, and developed recommendations and demonstration projects and provided technical assistance to remedy the problem. Other project highlights from the 1970s include designing an organized system for the U.S. Department of Labor to manage outreach programs and studying the effectiveness of court decisions and out-of-court settlements in remedying employment discrimination against minorities. In addition, the Center served as a regional center for training, education, research and evaluation from 1978 to 1982 through an institutional grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
During the 1980s, the Center forged new ground in data methodology by demonstrating the feasibility of using wage records to measure outcomes for postsecondary education. In addition, the Center pioneered linking of administrative program, employment, and other data for policy research and evaluation in Texas. Many of the projects during this decade focused on education and workforce development issues. Within Texas, Center staff helped establish a network of 40 centers devoted to basic skills instruction and provided staff support to what is now known as the Texas Workforce Investment Council. On a national scale, the Center worked to identify strategies for advancing the quality of minority education. Another highlight from the 1980s was a project funded by the National Center on Education and the Economy that assessed the competitiveness of the American workforce by conducting a top to bottom review of workforce development, education, and economic development across eight countries.
The Center’s projects in the 1990s expanded to include issues related to welfare reform. Center staff assisted legislative staff drafting major portions of legislation that reformed welfare and created a comprehensive, integrated workforce system for Texas. This legislation influenced later welfare and workforce system reforms at the national level. In 1994, Center staff worked with a range of local stakeholders to launch a regional workforce intermediary, now called Skillpoint Alliance, aimed at improving the school to career transition. In 1995, the Ford Foundation awarded its Innovations in American Government Award to San Antonio’s Project Quest training program, a demonstration project designed by Center staff to upgrade the local workforce system by developing community leadership. This program was later replicated in other cities across the country.
The Center was renamed in Dr. Marshall’s honor after his retirement from teaching in 1999. The Center remains at the forefront of research and analysis on human resource development issues ranging from early childhood education and care to postsecondary education and workforce development.
The Center is also working to leverage its core quantitative and qualitative research and evaluation skills to construct a new strand of work focusing on international development monitoring and evaluation. The RMC’s research staff is composed of a core of Ph.D. and Ph.D. candidate researchers from a wide range of disciplines including economics, education, social policy, public affairs, sociology, and geography. While working primarily on domestic policy and program evaluation, with funding from the Departments of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, and NASA, staff members also bring to the Center international development experience, including programmatic work in Latin American and Caribbean countries, and research and evaluation in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, the Center has close working relationships with faculty in other research centers at the LBJ School, as well as in other UT departments and other universities.