Panel Paper: Long Run Impacts from the WorkAdvance Demonstration

Saturday, November 4, 2017
Soldier Field (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Richard Hendra and Kelsey Schaberg, MDRC

This paper will present three year economic impact results from the WorkAdvance demonstration, a sectoral training and advancement program. The paper will provide the first indications about whether the initially encouraging results from this sectoral training model are sustained in the long run.

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 is available from administrative records, a rich follow-up survey with high response rates, and field notes and focus groups (including employer interviews). Three years of follow-up data are now 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 making long run follow-up critical.

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 provides some of the first rigorous evidence of whether the encouraging results from the P/PV Sector Impacts Study (SEIS) replicate and whether these impacts are sustained in the long run. 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. But the SEIS study only had two years of follow-up.

Last year MDRC released the two year impact results. These results were very encouraging but left several questions. The impacts at Per Scholas were quite large and appeared to be growing towards the end of the follow-up period. It is important to understand whether such impressive impacts can be sustained over time. Two of the other sites were beginning to show indications of positive impacts late in the follow-up period but it was unclear whether they’d be sustained. The fourth site, St. Nicks Alliance, was not yet showing impacts through two years, but other workforce development studies have shown that impacts can take three or even four years to emerge.

Full Paper: