Innovative Strategies for Increasing Self-Sufficiency, 2007-2017

Project Overview

In 2007, ACF initiated the Innovative Strategies for Increasing Self-Sufficiency project, a multi-site, random assignment evaluation of promising strategies for increasing employment and self-sufficiency among low-income families. During the project’s development, consensus emerged that the evaluation should study interventions with potential for substantial effects on earnings and income rather than just modest effects, should prioritize strategies focused on skills development, and should focus on a relatively wide population of low-income parents (not limited to TANF recipients). Based on stakeholder input, the ISIS team has come to focus on career pathways as the main intervention framework to study.

Career pathways are designed to allow entries, exits, and re-entries at each step—depending on skill levels and prior training, employment, and changing personal situations. Each step is designed to incorporate core program strategies (described below). The program strategies involve partnerships between multiple organizations, including community-based organizations, community colleges and other postsecondary training providers, human services and workforce agencies, and employers. Programs also emphasize partnerships within institutions, such as between community college departments.

To engage, retain, and facilitate learning among low-skilled adults, the career pathways framework includes four categories of service strategies: (1) assessments of skills and needs; (2) promising and innovative approaches to basic skills instruction and occupational training (“core curriculum”); (3) academic and non-academic supports to promote success; and (4) approaches for connecting students with career-track employment opportunities. Within each of these categories, a variety of strategies have emerged as emblematic, or signature, elements of promising approaches. Though there has been a trend to develop comprehensive programs inclusive of all of these strategies, the extent and ways in which programs include these strategies vary.

The ISIS team, led by Abt Associates as the principal researcher, is randomly assigning participants in nine innovative sites operating career pathways programs around the country. These ISIS partners include:

ISIS Site (Career Pathway Program

Description

Des Moines Area Community College (Prepared Learner Program)

Students in the Prepared Learner Program receive contextualized basic skills instruction, instruction in employment and life skills, and vocational training through a short-term certificate course. Each short-term certificate offered in the Prepared Learner Program ladders into one or more specific certificate, degree, or diploma programs.

I-BEST Programs in Washington State

The Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program operates in all 34 of Washington’s community colleges to provide basic skills or English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction and training in a range of credit-based occupational training programs along with counseling and other supports. The ISIS project is evaluating the Bellingham Technical, Everett Community and Whatcom Community Colleges.

Instituto del Progresso Latino (Carreras en Salud)

Instituto del Progreso Latino is a large non-profit education and employment organization in Chicago to serve the city’s growing Latino population. Launched in 2005, Carreras en Salud (Careers in Health) is a career pathway program in nursing occupations for low-skilled and limited English proficient Latinos that leads participants from a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) degree to Pre-Licensed Practitioner Nurse (LPN) to LPN and ultimately to Registered Nurse (RN).

Madison Area Technical College (Patient Care Academies)

Patient Care Pathway Program provides short-term condensed training that allows lower-skilled students to take courses for college credit and prepare them for health care degree and diploma programs. The program is split into two tracks offered in the program depending on the student’s skill level.

Pima Community College (Pathways to Healthcare)

The Pathways to Healthcare Program offers training to students in sixteen different healthcare professions based on personal preference and test scores. Trainings range from home health aides to medical billers/coders, to EMT-Paramedics. The length of training can be as short as the five-week Nursing Assistant training, or up to two or three years for any of the associate degree programs. This site is also part of the Health Profession Opportunity Grant evaluation.

San Diego Workforce Partnership (Bridge to Employment)

The Bridge to Employment job training programs enable eligible adults to develop the skills and knowledge needed for emerging career opportunities in health care by providing extensive case management and support services. This site is also part of the Health Profession Opportunity Grant evaluation.

Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement

Serving four large counties in southern Texas, the non-profit Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) aims to help students achieve an Associate’s degree and gain occupational training in allied health, manufacturing, technology, business, education, and other specialized trades. VIDA offers a bridge program, the College Prep Academy, to build basic educational and language skills in preparation for enrollment at a local community college.

Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County (Health Careers for All)

Health Careers for All (HCA) is designed to meet the region’s expanding healthcare labor needs while simultaneously addressing the training, employment, and advancement needs of its low-income residents by preparing them for jobs such as Nursing Assistant, Medical Office, and Phlebotomist.

Year – Up

Year-Up operates in nine nationwide sites to provide urban young adults with the skills, experience and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. Our intensive one-year program provides high school graduates and GED recipients between the ages of 18-24 with a combination of hands-on skill development and corporate internship opportunities.

 

Random assignment in all sites will conclude in the fall of 2014 and initial impact reports are expected beginning in 2016.  More information on the ISIS project is available at http://www.projectisis.org/.

The point of contact is Brendan Kelly.

  • ISIS Career Pathways Program Profile: Year Up

    Published: August 13, 2014

    A substantial skills gap exists between the education and training of the labor force and the needs of employers in many high growth industries, including healthcare and manufacturing. This gap results in unemployment while good paying jobs go unfilled. At the same time, many low-skilled adults persist in low wage work with little opportunity for advancement.

    Career pathways programs, like Year Up, are an approach to fill a vital need for skilled workers in the economy and offer low-wage...

  • ISIS Career Pathways Program Profile: Des Moines Area Community College Workforce Training Academy Connect Program

    Published: June 20, 2014

    A substantial skills gap exists between the education and training of the labor force and the needs of employers in many high growth industries, including healthcare and manufacturing. This gap results in unemployment while good paying jobs go unfilled. At the same time, many low-skilled adults persist in low wage work with little opportunity for advancement.

    Career pathways programs, like the Workforce Training Academy Connect (WTA Connect) Program, are an approach to fill a vital need for...

  • ISIS Career Pathways Program Profile: Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) Program

    Published: June 20, 2014

    A substantial skills gap exists between the education and training of the labor force and the needs of employers in many high growth industries, including healthcare and manufacturing. This gap results in unemployment while good paying jobs go unfilled. At the same time, many low-skilled adults persist in low wage work with little opportunity for advancement.

    Career pathways programs, like the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) Program, are an approach to fill a vital...

  • Improving the Economic Prospects of Low-Income Individuals through Career Pathways Programs: The Innovative Strategies For Increasing Self-Sufficiency Evaluation

    Published: April 17, 2014

    There is longstanding interest among policy makers and program operators in finding ways to increase the skill levels of low-income individuals, improve their enrollment in and completion of post-secondary education, and improve their economic prospects. The career pathways approach is gaining steady acceptance as a promising strategy to address these challenges and improve post-secondary education and training for low-income and low-skilled adults...

  • ISIS Career Pathways Program Profile: Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County Health Careers for All Program

    Published: April 17, 2014

    A substantial skills gap exists between the education and training of the labor force and the needs of employers in many high growth industries, including healthcare and manufacturing. This gap results in unemployment while good paying jobs go unfilled. At the same time, many low-skilled adults persist in low wage work with little opportunity for advancement.

    Career pathways programs, like the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County Health Careers for All (HCA) program, are an...

  • ISIS Career Pathways Program Profile: Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA)

    Published: April 17, 2014

    A substantial skills gap exists between the education and training of the labor force and the needs of employers in many high growth industries, including healthcare and manufacturing. This gap results in unemployment while good paying jobs go unfilled. At the same time, many low-skilled adults persist in low wage work with little opportunity for advancement.

    Career pathways programs, like the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA), are an approach to fill a vital need...

  • Innovative Strategies for Increasing Self-Sufficiency Study

    Published: April 17, 2014

    There is longstanding interest among policy makers and program operators in finding ways to increase the skill levels of low-income individuals, improve their enrollment in and completion of post-secondary education, and improve their economic prospects. The career pathways approach is gaining steady acceptance as a promising strategy to address these challenges and improve post-secondary education and training for low-income and low-skilled adults.

    This summary is an easy-to-read...

  • ISIS Career Pathways Program Profile: Instituto del Progreso Latino, Carreras en Salud

    Published: April 17, 2014

    A substantial skills gap exists between the education and training of the labor force and the needs of employers in many high growth industries, including healthcare and manufacturing. This gap results in unemployment while good paying jobs go unfilled. At the same time, many low-skilled adults persist in low wage work with little opportunity for advancement.

    Career pathways programs, like Instituto del Progreso Latino Carreras en Salud, are an approach to fill a vital need for skilled...

  • ISIS Career Pathways Program Profile: San Diego Workforce Partnership’s Bridge to Employment in the Healthcare Industry Program

    Published: October 18, 2013

    A substantial skills gap exists between the education and training of the labor force and the needs of employers in many high growth industries, including healthcare and manufacturing. This gap results in unemployment while good paying jobs go unfilled. At the same time, many low-skilled adults persist in low wage work with little opportunity for advancement.

    Career pathways programs, like the San Diego Workforce Partnership’s Bridge to Employment in the Healthcare Industry Program...

  • ISIS Career Pathways Program Profile: Pima Community College Pathways to Healthcare HPOG Program

    Published: September 30, 2013

    A substantial skills gap exists between the education and training of the labor force and the needs of employers in many high growth industries, including healthcare and manufacturing. This gap results in unemployment while good paying jobs go unfilled. At the same time, many low-skilled adults persist in low wage work with little opportunity for advancement.

    Career pathways programs, like the Pima Community College (PCC) Pathways to Healthcare HPOG programs, are an approach...

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