Provides an overview of the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) career pathways framework and its theory of change that guides the evaluation.

"This brief focuses on a “project [that] is a major national effort to evaluate the effectiveness of nine career pathways programs using experimental design.  It [also] describes the nine programs in the evaluation and concludes with the study’s research questions and data sources.  Later reports and briefs will present findings from the evaluation and be posted on (www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/research/project/pathways-for-advancing-careers-and-education)”’ (p.4).

“The PACE evaluation framework provides a road map for studying career pathways programs. In addition to providing a guide for describing and assessing specific programs, the framework can inform the development of both discrete programs and systems change initiatives that seek to integrate services and resources” (p.4).

The theory of change “…depicts how the four program components described above (“inputs”) may influence intermediate outcomes, which in turn affect main career pathways outcomes—the primary targets of change— improved educational and employment outcomes. It also shows how local contextual factors are expected to influence program participant outcomes” (p.6).

“PACE uses an experimental evaluation design in which individuals who are eligible for the program are assigned, by lottery, to either a treatment group that can participate in the program or a control group that cannot, but can access other available programs and services in the community” (p.10).

“The programs in the PACE evaluation are:

  • Bridge to Employment in the Health Care Industry at the San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP)
  • Carreras en Salud at Instituto del Progreso Latino
  • Health Careers for All at the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County (WDC)
  • Pathways to Healthcare at Pima Community College (PCC)
  • Patient Care Academies at Madison Area Technical College (MATC)
  • Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA)
  • Washington Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program at three sites (Bellingham Technical College, Whatcom Community College and Everett Community College)
  • Workforce Training Academy (WTA) Connect at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC)
  • Year Up (eight sites)” (p.8).

(Abstractor: Author)

 (Full Publication Title: Improving the Economic Prospects of Low-Income Individuals Through Career Pathways Programs: The Innovative Strategies For Increasing Self-Sufficiency Evaluation)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“To effectively engage and retain participants, and to facilitate learning, career pathways programs integrate four core elements: 1. Comprehensive assessment. To identify student needs and factors that may facilitate or hinder academic success (and ultimately career advancement), career pathways programs emphasize assessment of a range of skills, strengths, and challenges. They use both academic and non-academic assessments to identify student service needs. 2. Basic and occupational skills training. Career pathways programs aim to make education and training more manageable for students who are likely to be balancing school, work, and family life, and who may have weak basic skills. Strategies include: well-articulated steps, contextualization, acceleration, flexible delivery, and active learning. 3. Academic and non-academic supports. Program supports intend to help students succeed in their current academic step, as well as link to and persist in subsequent steps. These efforts seek to address gaps and deficiencies within existing support systems to meet the needs of a population that faces more extensive academic and personal challenges than traditional college students. They include: personal guidance and supports, instructional supports, social supports, support services, and financial assistance. 4. Connecting participants to employers” (p.4-6). Intermediate outcomes include “a variety of cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal skills. Other intermediate outcomes include development of career goals and knowledge (e.g., participants’ ability to navigate the norms and expected behaviors of college and work settings) through advising and career navigation supports, instruction in skills for success in college and work, and exposure to expectations in different employment settings” (p.6-7). The main outcomes for participants in career pathways systems are to improve education and employment outcomes. Furthermore, “an important rationale for improving low-income adults’ education and earnings is to enhance their other life outcomes” (p.7). It is important to be aware that “Institutional, economic and social aspects of local environments can affect the degree to which career pathways programs foster positive participant outcomes. Although programs seek to prepare individuals for occupations with strong projected demand, local forecasting can be difficult, and jobs may not be available as anticipated” (p.8). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)