Presents two-year findings from an impact evaluation of the WorkAdvance model, a Social Innovation Fund-sponsored initiative in New York City, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Northeast Ohio.  The study effectively aligned training for low-skilled job seekers to meet the needs of employers in information technology, health care, transportation, manufacturing, and environmental remediation industry sectors.

“Even in good economic times, many adults — particularly individuals with no more than a high school education — struggle to obtain and maintain jobs that pay enough to support their families and permit upward mobility. At the same time, some employers report difficulty finding employees with the right skills to meet their needs. This report summarizes the two-year effectiveness results of WorkAdvance — a workforce development program that seeks to meet the needs of participants and employers equally. For unemployed and low-wage working adults, the program provides occupational skills training in targeted sectors that have good quality jobs and room for advancement within established career pathways. The program’s strategy is a sector-based one, in which program management and staff members also seek to fully understand — and fulfill — the skill requirements and other needs of employers in the targeted sectors….

WorkAdvance has been implemented in diverse settings by four providers specializing in specific sectors in which they have sought to develop relationships with employers and in-depth industry knowledge: Per Scholas (in New York City) targeted the information technology (IT) sector; St. Nicks Alliance (also in New York City) focused on environmental remediation; Madison Strategies Group (in Tulsa, Oklahoma) focused on transportation and, later, manufacturing; and Towards Employment (in northeast Ohio) targeted health care and manufacturing” (ES-1).

There are four “key components of the WorkAdvance model:

1. Intensive screening of program applicants…” (ES-3).

“2. Sector-appropriate preemployment and career readiness services….

3. Sector-specific occupational skills training….

4. Sector-specific job development and placement services….

5. Postemployment retention and advancement services…” (ES-4).

This study used random assignment to quantify the impact of the WorkAdvance program. A total of 2,564 individuals were enrolled in the study across the sites. Of these, 1,293 were randomly assigned into the program group and 1,271 were assigned to the control group (p.19). Data sources included a follow-up survey administered 22 months after random assignment and unemployment insurance data.

Full publication title: Encouraging Evidence on a Sector-Focused Advancement Strategy Two-Year Impacts from the WorkAdvance Demonstration

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

The report presents key findings about the two-year effectiveness of the WorkAdvance program, including: • “Across all sites, WorkAdvance resulted in very large increases in participation in every category of services, as well as in training completion and credential acquisition, compared with what would have happened in the absence of the program” (ES-7). • “The WorkAdvance programs at all providers increased participants’ employment in the targeted sector, but the size of the impact varied substantially across the sites” (ES-8). • “Impacts on earnings — from any type of job in any sector — varied across the sites, in a pattern that closely matched the providers’ experience in running sector-based programs and the extent to which the services they offered were demand driven” (ES-10). • “The extent to which WorkAdvance increased employment in targeted sector jobs was the critical factor in explaining the pattern of impacts across the sites. At all the sites, jobs in the targeted sector were generally of higher quality than jobs outside the targeted sector” (ES-13). • “WorkAdvance produced positive impacts for the long-term unemployed. WorkAdvance operated during the long wake of the Great Recession of 2007-2009. During this period, the number of people who qualified as long-term unemployed increased markedly, and there was significant concern about the likelihood of reengaging this group in the labor market.…This analysis found that WorkAdvance produced statistically significant impacts on employment and earnings for both the long-term unemployed and those who were semi-attached to the labor market” (ES-16). In sum, “The WorkAdvance results show that sectoral programs can increase earnings among low-income individuals. But even when a program is well implemented, the benefits take time to emerge, for providers that have lengthy experience in sectoral training as well as for providers that are new to the strategy” (ES-16). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)