MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research firm, released encouraging results today from a demonstration and evaluation of WorkAdvance, a sectoral training and advancement program tested in four sites in New York City, Northeast Ohio, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Each targeting different sectors, the four programs provided sector-based skills training for jobs that have career ladders or pathways in information technology (IT), environmental remediation, transportation, manufacturing, and health care. Together the four WorkAdvance sites helped participants earn an average of 14 percent (or nearly $2,000 in annual income) more than they otherwise would have earned two years after they entered the program. The effects differed by site, ranging from no earnings gain in one site to a 26 percent increase in the most effective site.
These results confirm earlier studies that sectoral programs increase earnings among low-income individuals. Even when a program is well implemented, however, the benefits to participants can take at least a year to emerge for experienced providers and longer for those that are new to the sectoral strategy.
MDRC conducted a rigorous random assignment study of WorkAdvance in four sites: Per Scholas (in New York City) targeted the IT sector; St. Nicks Alliance (also in New York City) focused on environmental remediation; Madison Strategies Group (in Tulsa, Oklahoma) focused on transportation and, later, manufacturing; and Towards Employment (in northeast Ohio) targeted health care and manufacturing. The two-year follow-up results released today in a summary report are based on unemployment insurance records and a survey, and conclude that WorkAdvance:
- Increased training completion, credential acquisition, and sector employment. Overall, because of WorkAdvance, participants were more likely to complete skills training and acquire a credential (especially in the targeted sector) than they would have been without access to the program. For example, in each of the four sites, participants were more likely than the control group to complete training by 31 percentage points or more. They were also more likely to attain a vocational training credential in the targeted sector by 25 percentage points or more. At all four sites, participants were more likely to become employed in a job in the targeted sector, by 12 percentage points (St. Nicks) to 41 percentage points (Per Scholas).
- Increased earnings in three of four sites. The most experienced sectoral provider, Per Scholas, boosted earnings by more than $3,700 (or 26 percent) above the control group level in Year 2. The Per Scholas program also increased income, reduced material hardship, reduced public assistance usage, and increased overall life satisfaction. At Madison Strategies Group and Towards Employment, statistically significant impacts on earnings began to emerge in Year 2. Earnings effects were also substantially larger for a later cohort, partially reflecting the deepening experience of these two agencies with what, for them, was a new approach. At St. Nicks Alliance, impacts on earnings had not yet emerged by Year 2.
- Increased earnings among the long-term unemployed. WorkAdvance operated during the long wake of the Great Recession of 2007-2009. During this period, the number of people who qualified as long-term unemployed increased markedly, and there was significant concern about the likelihood of reengaging this group in the labor market. On average, WorkAdvance was able to increase earnings for this important group.