Panel: Career Progress: Measurement and Evidence
(Employment and Training Programs)

Saturday, November 9, 2019: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Ballroom D (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Matthew Zeidenberg, Abt Associates, Inc.
Panel Chair:  Nicole Constance, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Discussant:  Lauren Eyster, Urban Institute

Throughout the country, policymakers have renewed support for career technical education (CTE).  The 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, for example, revised federal legislation on large-scale workforce training investment, placing special emphasis on career pathways. The most proximate tie between post-secondary training and the labor market, CTE promises opportunities for short-term investment (or re-investment) in human capital tied to specific in-demand careers. Further, certain CTE pathways may allow students to stack multiple credentials and in so doing move up a career ladder – education’s upward mobility mechanism in action. 

The popularity of the career pathways framework, along with several recent high-profile evaluations of the framework, have created demand for understanding whether these interventions work as intended. Assessing whether these interventions are successful requires more than knowing whether participants saw increased earnings, but rather more nuanced views on whether they found themselves on a path to future career success.

This panel discusses challenges and solutions in measuring career progress as an outcome for impact evaluation. The papers on this panel seek to answer a fundamental question: what does progression along a career pathway look like, and how can researchers observe it?

The first two presentations on the panel explore these questions in the same context: the Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) Program. Participants in HPOG had access to programs that were intended to place them on a career pathway in health professions, making the program ideal for study in this context. The first paper, presented by Sara Chaganti at Brandeis University, focuses on how HPOG participants themselves conceptualized career progress, including their own goals and experiences in training and the labor market. The second paper, presented by Michel Grosz from Abt Associates, uses detailed monthly survey data and other administrative records to describe the career trajectories of HPOG participants through the first three years after random assignment.

The next two presentations use similar data, from resumes, to further understand career progress. Matthew Zeidenberg from Abt Associates presents research on a database of occupational transitions that has been constructed from federal survey data and from a corpus of resumes. This database allows researchers and policymakers to understand the nature of career transitions in the labor market, the relative frequency of transitions, and the nature of the transitions: who makes them, what are their education and skills, and what wages are associated with each occupation in the transition. Dan Restuccia from Burning Glass will also present on research based on a large corpus of resumes, classifying careers based on the extent that they offer access to high-wage, stable employment.

Together, these presentations shed new light on an important topic, using various types of data sources and approaches.

Beyond the Ladder: Measuring Career Progress through Micro-Advancements
Misti R. Jeffers, Sylvia Stewart and Sara Chaganti, Brandeis University

When Is a Job Just a Job—and When Can It Launch a Career?
Dan Restuccia, Burning Glass and Sara Lamback, JFF

Occupational Mobility in a Changing Labor Market: Upward Climbs or Crooked Paths?
Shulamit Kahn1, Alicia Sasser Modestino2 and Yeseul Hyun1, (1)Boston University, (2)Northeastern University

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