This report documents the implementation and early impacts of the Carreras en Salud (Careers in Health) program, operated by Instituto del Progreso Latino, in Chicago, Illinois. The Carreras en Salud program is aimed at helping low-income, low-skilled adults access and complete occupational training that can lead to increased employment and higher earnings. A copy of the full report is supplemented with a six-page brief that summarizes the findings.

This report, published in January 2018, documents the implementation and early impacts of the Carreras en Salud (Careers in Health) program, operated by Instituto del Progreso Latino, in Chicago, Illinois from November 2011 to September 2014. A key feature of this program is its focus on training for low-income Latinos for employment in healthcare occupations, primarily Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). It is among nine career pathways programs being evaluated in the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) study sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The federal government projects that over the next decade, the fastest-growing occupations will be in healthcare. This demand also creates opportunities for low-income, low-skilled adults to gain entry-level employment, as well as advance to higher-skilled, higher-paying jobs. Almost all jobs in healthcare require some level of postsecondary education or training. But, many low-income, low-skilled adults face considerable barriers to completing even short-term training for entry-level jobs. Many are “non-traditional” students—that is, older, often parents, lacking adequate basic academic skills, and with few economic resources. Carreras en Salud aims to provide career training and guidance to overcome these barriers.

The Carreras en Salud program consists of five elements: (1) a structured healthcare training pathway, starting at low skill levels; (2) contextualized and accelerated basic skills and ESL instruction; (3) academic advising and non-academic supports; (4) financial assistance; and (5) employment services.

Using a rigorous research design, the study examined the Carreras en Salud program to assess occupational training and basic skills instruction delivered and the attainment of education credentials within an 18-month follow-up period. The study also sought to measure increased employment in the healthcare field and if this employment resulted in a reduction of participants reporting financial hardship.

Major Findings & Recommendations

The report and brief both highlight outcomes observed through the evaluation. Key findings and highlights include the following:

  • The Carreras en Salud program operated largely as designed. Students were placed in courses depending on their basic skills level along a seven-step career pathway, beginning with an English as a Second Language course for those as low as fourth-grade skill levels and continuing through the college-level LPN course. Carreras also provided a range of supports including academic advising, assistance with support services, employment assistance, and tuition support.
  • The vast majority of treatment group members participated in at least one Carreras course, and completion rates for many of the programs were high. A significant portion of students progressed to the next course. The most common courses attended were in the “middle” of the Carreras pathway, and few reached the upper-level LPN course within the study’s 18-month follow-up period.
  • The Carreras program increased the hours of occupational training (the confirmatory outcome measured in this report) and basic skills instruction received over the follow-up period. The treatment group was also more likely than the control group to receive career counseling, help with arranging supports, and assistance with job searches.
  • The treatment group earned more credentials than the control group, primarily from a licensing or certification organization.
  • The Carreras program increased employment in the healthcare field and reduced the proportion of participants experiencing financial hardships.

The brief summarizes the study findings as follows:

  • Evaluation findings show that the program was successful at engaging and enrolling students, helping them advance to higher-level trainings along the pathway and obtain credentials, and helping them secure employment in the healthcare field.
  • Carreras’s impact on education and training compares favorably with other approaches to improve the education and economic outcomes of nontraditional students.
  • The evaluation findings attest to the role that experienced nonprofit organizations can play as providers of training and facilitators of enrollment and persistence in public college systems.
  • Although Instituto operated Carreras largely as designed, its experience indicates areas for further attention and development.