Poster Paper: Outcomes and Impacts of Project Grow, a Workforce Innovation Fund Grant Implemented Along the Texas-Mexico Border

Saturday, November 5, 2016
Columbia Ballroom (Washington Hilton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Ashweeta Patnaik and Heath Prince, University of Texas at Austin

Project GROW (Growing Regional Opportunity for the Workforce),was funded by the U.S. Department of Labor under the Workforce Innovation Fund Grant Program (WIF), which supports innovative approaches to the  design and delivery of employment and training services. Project GROW was an ambitious regional, multi-partner, strategically comprehensive demonstration effort to accelerate certification, employment, and career advancement in demand occupations for an array of economically marginal target groups. The program featured multiple sites using differentiated program models with cohorts and sub-cohorts to test various service delivery features.

The Ray Marshall Center (RMC) conducted a mixed-method multi-site evaluation of Project GROW. We tracked and studied the outcomes of Project GROW participants, including training and education program completion, occupation credential achievement, GED achievement, employment placement, employment retention and wage gain. We also conducted a quasi-experimental impact evaluation to estimate impacts from participation in the Project GROW as a whole on key educational and labor market outcomes. We applied propensity core matching to construct a comparison group and address the key issue of the counterfactual: what would have happened absent the intervention?  

Our evaluation relied on a variety of data sources. A key feature of Project GROW was an integrated data system for program and performance management that was custom-designed for Project GROW; we relied on this data system to study the treatment group’s demographic characteristics, enrollment patterns, and progress through the program. We also used administrative data including data from the Texas Workforce Commission’s The Workforce Information System of Texas (TWIST); the Texas Workforce Commission’s Work In Texas (WIT) system; longitudinal UI wage and claims records from the Texas Workforce Commission; and TANF, Medicaid and related participation data from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). The RMC is in a unique position to access such data, having standing MOUs and Data Sharing Agreements with these agencies for many years.

In this paper, we report education and employment outcomes of Project GROW participants, and the program impact of Project GROW on education and employment outcomes. Project GROW was implemented in a service area encompassing five Workforce Investment Boards that span the entire Texas-Mexico border area from the City of Brownsville in the south to El Paso in the north.  Despite significant economic expansion in recent years, this region remains one of the most disadvantaged areas in the state and the nation in terms of poverty, unemployment, literacy, limited English language proficiency, education, and income.  Project GROW also served sections of the population that generally have the most difficulty successfully navigating available education, training, and employment opportunities. Our evaluation of Project GROW thus provides important evidence to policy makers and practitioners, and can help inform future large-scale investments into this population.