“In the latter half of 2016, [the authors] conducted national research…regarding innovative education to-employment opportunities for low-income adults. The goal of this initiative was to…understand the emerging ecosystem of Alternative Pathways Programs, which are generally non-accredited, employment oriented education and training initiatives that promise a pathway into the workforce for participants. In particular, [the authors] sought to explore how these models could support low-income adults…to enhance their readiness and their access to sustainable employment opportunities and longer-term career pathways.
In Part 1 of Path to Employment, [the authors] defined ‘Alternative Pathways Programs’ and reviewed their potential to augment the education-to-employment pathways for low-income adults. In addition, [the authors] identified and described six Program Pillars that represent critical design considerations for providers seeking to achieve outcomes with low-income adult learners.
Those Program Pillars—and their development and application among a cohort of notable Alternative Pathways Programs—form the framework of this publication” (p.3). Using “qualitative analysis of hundreds of companies and organizations…(p.26) and interviews with stakeholders, “Part 2 of Path to Employment highlights how a dynamic cohort of the Alternative Pathways Program…are driving success for participants through well designed models…draw[ing] on the principles included in [the] six Program Pillars.
The six pillars are described below:
- “Enrollment Policies: Processes and guidelines for evaluating and admitting participants”; Optimal model: Holistic Evaluation (p.4).
- “Participant Support: Resources and methods that support participants in overcoming life challenges”; Optimal model: On-site support and strategic partnerships (p.4).
- “Labor Market Alignment: Level of program fit with the needs of employers and the local/regional economy”; Optimal model: Regional training flexibility (p.4).
- “Connections: Extent to which program connects participants with employers and other job search resources”; Optimal model: Opportunity connector (p.4).
- “Training Mix: Balance of curriculum emphasis on soft skills vs. academic and technical skills”; Optimal model: Balanced approach to hard and soft skills (p.4).
- “Financial Model: Ability to generate revenue and achieve organizational sustainability”; Optimal model: employer as payer (p.4).
Major Findings & Recommendations
Part 1 of Path to Employment describes the six Program Pillars (enrollment policies, participant support, labor market alignment, connections, training mix, and financial model) and describes each Pillar’s optimal model. In this resource, Part 2, the authors describe successful operations strategies and activities to demonstrate the effectiveness with each of the specific Program Pillars. For example: Enrollment Policies. Opportunity Junction, a regional workforce development program, “exemplifies the Holistic Evaluation model by employing several factors to evaluate program applicants….[The organization] evaluates the presence of `addressable’ and `non-addressable’ barriers that exist for candidates, identifying specific issues and challenges that may impact their ability to participate in and meet program requirements” (p.17). Participant Support. “Hack the Hood is a provider of introductory coding bootcamps for low-income minority youth” (p.14). “The organization employs a full-time social worker for trauma counseling and other high-risk needs. With a combination of counseling services and financial supports, Hack the Hood provides scaffolding to facilitate the high completion rates achieved by the participants” (p.15). Labor Market Alignment. At 180 Skills, an organization providing online manufacturing courses, “[i]n addition to internal expertise, each course’s content is verified by two content partners: one corporate and one community or technical college” (p.7). Connections. “Flatiron offers [coding] bootcamp participants career counseling, interview preparation, and other support services….The company also reaches out to employers on behalf of its learners to create interview opportunities” (p.13). Training Mix. At the Stride Center, a regional workforce development provider, “[h]ard skills training lasts for approximately six months, and classes emphasize technical skills needed for particular professions. Yet the Stride Center also places a significant emphasis on its soft skills training, referred to as career navigation skills” (p.23). Financial Model. Code2040, a national non-profit focused on racial equality in technology careers “is aggressively diversifying its revenue streams, blending its initial sourcing of grants and private donations with fee-based services delivered to employers” (p.11). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)