Poster Paper: Accelerating Connections to Employment—A Randomized Control Trial

Friday, November 8, 2013
West End Ballroom A (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Allan Porowski, Akua B. Gyabaah and Dominic Modicamore, ICF International
In order to determine the fidelity of an intervention and implementation targeting low-skilled job seekers, including individuals with limited English proficiency and individuals with low reading, writing and math skills, ICF International (ICF) is implementing a randomized controlled trial (RCT) design as part of the Accelerating Connections to Employment (ACE)  National Evaluation study.  Through an RCT, the study team can balance treatment and control groups on both observable and unobservable factors, which ultimately provide a measure of the true impact of ACE.  The study involves collaboration between community colleges, Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), and employers within four states—Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, and Texas.  The ACE National Evaluation is being conducted in a myriad of settings in order to increase the likelihood of extrapolation to various populations and target areas.  The nine ACE sites are located in urban areas (Atlanta, Austin, New Haven, and Baltimore), suburban areas (Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, Prince and George’s County) and rural areas (Maryland Upper Shore).

The ACE initiative has two major innovative strategies. The first is to introduce or scale up programs in the nine partner communities modeled on Washington State’s highly regarded I-BEST program. This project will build on Maryland’s years of experience implementing an I-BEST like program at six community colleges, and on Austin Community College’s experience with a similar model. These accelerated, integrated “ACE programs” will incorporate basic skills, occupational skills, and job readiness training; supportive services; an optional internship or clinical placements; job placement support; and long-term career navigation. Each ACE program will prepare job seekers for high demand occupations that offer a career pathway.

The ACE program is also designed to foster systems innovation. Across the nine workforce investment areas there is wide variation in the degree of coordination among agencies and organizations serving low-skilled individuals. WIBs will bring these entities in as partners, in an effort to streamline and better coordinate services and funding. Partners include community colleges to deliver the ACE programs and collaborate on assessment, coaching, and job placement activities; employers to provide information on labor market demands and skills needs, host internships and consider graduates for available job opportunities; and other public agencies and community-based organizations to refer and support participants and identify additional resources as available. To foster cooperation, partners will develop and implement, as appropriate, common recruitment, assessment, case management, and data management tools.

This report centers on a description of the study design, the barriers and motivators associated with implementing an RCT at the community college- and WIB-levels, as well as with the target population.  In addition, the report explores the value of incorporating a mixed-method evaluation in order to triangulate rigorous evidence from the RCT with the rich experiences of practitioners.