Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Latest Evidence on the Sectoral Strategy: Economic Impact, Implementation, and Cost Results from the Workadvance Demonstration

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 1:45 PM
Orchid B (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Richard Hendra, MDRC
This paper will present the implementation, participation, and cost results of the WorkAdvance demonstration, a sectoral training and advancement program. The WorkAdvance model reflects a reading of the evidence that only through deep knowledge of and relationships with employers in a particular sector can staff in programs serving low-income individuals provide the required level of specialized guidance needed for participants to succeed in their jobs and advance in their careers while also meeting employers’ demand for specific skills.

MDRC is examining the impacts and implementation of the WorkAdvance program in Tulsa, OK; New York City; and northeast Ohio. The study enrolled approximately 2,600 participants and used a rigorous random assignment research design. Data will be available from administrative records, a rich follow-up survey with high response rates, and field notes and focus groups (including employer interviews). Two years of follow-up data are available for the full sample. The impact study is following individuals who qualified for the WorkAdvance programs between mid-2011 and mid-2013. Program participants received program services for up to two years after enrollment.

The results of WorkAdvance have long been anticipated because the program is highly relevant to current policy making. Training policy has a current focus on rigorously examining the effectiveness of programs emphasizing several approaches: the alignment of services with employer demand, longer-term advancement opportunities (rather than a focus on simply finding a job), and the provision of training that is tailored to the needs of particular industry sectors, in terms of both hard skills (such as how to operate certain machinery) and soft skills (such as how to adjust to the “culture” of employment in that sector). WorkAdvance embodies all of these elements.

Notably, the WorkAdvance impact analysis will eventually provide the first rigorous evidence of whether the encouraging results from the P/PV Sector Impacts Study (SEIS) replicate.  The SEIS study showed that a combination of sectoral training and deep employer relationships produced large impacts on earnings for three well established sectoral training providers. The WorkAdvance test is very important for the workforce development field since the SEIS study has been highly influential in policymaking in this area. WorkAdvance operated in a different economy and with a broader range of sectors and providers. Because so much of the workforce development field is focused on sectoral approaches, this test will be an important indication of the scalability and transfer of the approach to a wider range of providers who were (in some cases) newer to sectoral programming compared to the programs tested by P/PV.

Thus far, the findings from the implementation analysis suggest that WorkAdvance program providers have been able to implement all of the major elements of the WorkAdvance model, including pre-employment and career readiness services, occupational skills training, job development and placement, and retention and advancement services, but the last-listed services have taken the most time to develop, particularly in a robust way.