KentuckianaWorks of Louisville, KY used its Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF) grant to design, implement and test an online training program (Code Louisville) for job seekers interested in careers in Information Technology with an emphasis on coding.

The training involved a 12-week series of online classes instead of a traditional classroom-based method, paired with a mentorship component. Job placement assistance and social “mixers” were also part of the services. The program was implemented in May 2015 and served over 1,400 participants between May 2015 and January 2018. The program served a different demographic group than other comparison programs. Code Louisville participants were more likely to have education beyond a High School degree, were younger, and more likely to be white.

The evaluation of this program consisted of three components: a qualitative study of the implementation of the program, a quantitative study of the outcomes, and a cost study. The qualitative study was performed by personnel at IQS research during the implementation to provide real-time feedback to KentuckianaWorks. The quantitative and cost study components were retrospective. Each aspect of the evaluation is summarized in the full report.

(The report is 55 pages long).

Major Findings & Recommendations

Findings from the study included the following:

  • A total of 1,421 individuals started the program by January 2018, and the program had a substantial waiting list. Of the total who had started, 58% completed at least one track. The participant group was majority male, white, and was more educated than the typical WIOA participant.
  • Program participants typically had lower employment rates than those in comparison groups during the year post program entry. In terms of earnings, program participants had higher earnings post program initially as compared to the comparison groups, but the difference declined over time.
  • The implementation study noted that early in implementation there was confusion about the role of the mentor, and this component of the program took some time to evolve. Participants reported that the mentor was a key aspect of the program. Finding mentors – a volunteer position – posed challenges for the program, but at the time of data collection, there was a pool of 200 mentors with more being added from the group of program graduates.
  • The quantitative (QED) study compared the Code Louisville participants to three other training programs. As compared to the other training programs, the study found that Code Louisville participants experienced declining average earnings post program. Code Louisville participants were less likely to be employed after enrollment than other training participants, although this gap closed for some over the first year. The employment rates during the first year for Code Louisville participants with more than a high school degree were comparable to participants in other programs.

The evaluator offered several conclusions about the study. These included:

  1. The Code Louisville program served a different population than those in the comparison training groups. As a result, the evaluator used propensity score matching to compare employment outcomes of participants who were statistically similar to individuals in the control group;
  2. The Code Louisville program prepared participants for entry level positions in a career track (IT) that has the potential for earnings growth. However, the one-year timing of the evaluation limited what outcomes could be observed.