This report summarizes the implementation and early impact findings for nine programs employing career pathways strategies for low-income and low-skilled adults. These programs were evaluated as part of the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) Evaluation, and information about each program is available on WFGPS and here: Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE), 2007-2018.

The PACE framework guides the development and operation of programs aiming to improve the occupational skills of low-income adults, many of whom are older and non-traditional students, by increasing their entry into, persistence in, and completion of postsecondary training. Key features of the programs within this framework include:

  • A series of well-defined training steps;
  • Innovative basic skills and occupational training instructional approaches targeted to adult learners;
  • Services to address academic and non-academic barriers to program enrollment and completion; and
  • Connections to employment during or after the program.

The paper describes program implementation, as well as effects of the programs on initial training and career steps, approximately 18 months after the random assignment of each program’s participants into treatment and control groups. This cross-program summary distills findings from program-specific evaluations of education and training and services implemented and describes where programs had impacts.

The nine programs evaluated include:

  1. Bridge to Employment in the Healthcare Industry, San Diego Workforce Partnership, San Diego, CA
  2. Carreras en Salud, Instituto del Progreso Latino, Chicago, IL
  3. Health Careers for All, Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County, Seattle, WA
  4. Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program at three colleges (Bellingham Technical College, Whatcom Community College and Everett Community College), Washington State
  5. Pathways to Healthcare, Pima Community College, Tucson, AZ
  6. Patient Care Pathway Program, Madison College, Madison, WI
  7. Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA), Lower Rio Grande Valley, TX
  8. Workforce Training Academy Connect, Des Moines Area Community College, Des Moines, IA
  9. Year Up (Atlanta, Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, National Capital Region, New York City, Providence, Seattle)

The primary research questions were:

  1. What interventions were implemented, and did the implementation go as planned?
  2. Could programs increase recruitment for purposes of recruiting a control group and a larger treatment group?
  3. What were the differences in services, including training, received by treatment and control group members in each program?
  4. What were the effects of the programs on educational attainment? Entry into career-track employment?

Major Findings & Recommendations

Each program in PACE was evaluated separately. Below are the consistent findings across programs:

  1. Recruitment presented challenges for almost all programs. Programs that succeeded in meeting their targets had proactive and ongoing discussions with key referral partners, tested new recruitment methods, and tracked referral sources to better target methods.
  2. Programs had the most flexibility to design and implement basic skills bridge programs using innovative instructional approaches. These include contextualization, active learning techniques, flexible class times, and compressed schedules.
  3. Programs provided advising but rarely mandated it. All programs offered academic and non-academic advising. Most had a recommended number of advising sessions, but only two programs mandated them.
  4. Financial support, when provided, largely focused on support for training. Three programs provided training at no cost to participants; others provided Individual Training Account vouchers, scholarships, or funding to fill the gap between existing financial aid and the cost of the program, or assistance with financial aid applications.
  5. Services to connect program participants to employment generally consisted of workshops. Few programs provided employment counseling or in-program employment opportunities.
  6. Programs had high levels of enrollment in education and training. Eight of the nine programs had positive and statistically significant impacts on enrollment in education and training.
  7. Seven programs had a significant impact on their confirmatory outcome and thus seemed to be on track to achieving their longer-term goals. For eight programs, the confirmatory outcome was education-related, and for one, it was earnings-related.