CareerSource North Central Florida, the local workforce development board (LWDB) in Alachua and Bradford counties, used its Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF) grant to implement the Startup Quest® entrepreneurial training program in eight LWDBs in Florida, including Daytona, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Tampa Bay.

The Startup Quest® program goal is to provide unemployed and underemployed individuals with associate’s degrees or above with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to start and operate their own businesses or find wage/salary employment. The program involves a 10-session entrepreneurial training program that provides participants with an introduction to the processes required to form a startup, and the opportunity to work with a team and entrepreneurial mentor to develop and present a commercialization strategy for innovative technology.

The evaluation team implemented a mixed-methods evaluation design of the Startup Quest® program that included complementary qualitative and quantitative components. The qualitative component consisted of a process study, the quantitative component involved a random assignment impact evaluation. The process study documented program implementation and highlighted challenges, best practices, and lessons learned.

(The report is 224 pages long including appendices.)

Major Findings & Recommendations

This study found that Startup Quest® was implemented in accordance with the program model across the nine regions. Scaling up a new program for implementation in nine separate and distinct regions did lead to challenges and lessons learned, but program implementers were quick to identify workable solutions. As each region implemented the training program, best practices such as employing high-quality, well-connected staff and taking regional context into consideration when planning for the program were identified. Sharing these best practices across regions contributed to a smooth implementation process and positive experience for participants.

The impact study showed that while Startup Quest® had no impact on self-employment outcomes, the program had increasing effects on salaried employment and earnings. The effects on employment became statistically significant during the latter stages of the project. In addition, Startup Quest® was effective in reducing reliance on UI receipt and duration. Differences in program impacts across selected subgroups are also presented. An interesting subgroup finding is that Startup Quest® was particularly effective in promoting self-employment for individuals younger than 40 years. The report separately analyzes the outcomes of Startup Quest® veterans, who were given the same priority of service they receive under all USDOL-funded job training programs including WIOA/WIA.

The authors highlighted the following program, policy, and evaluation implications based on the Startup Quest® evaluation findings.

  • Consideration should be given to regional context when conducting program start-up, training, and post‐training activities.
  • This technology‐based, self‐employment program may be a better fit for younger program participants.
  • Framing Startup Quest® as both a self‐employment and employment training program may both help increase demand for the program and broaden community support for local and regional employers.
  • Positive program impacts on labor market outcomes may be due, in part, to the networking opportunities created by the program.
  • Future evaluations of similar labor market programs should consider long‐term data collection post‐random assignment to examine program impacts on medium‐and longer‐term outcomes.
  • Attending all 10 sessions may be an important factor in sustaining longer‐term effects.