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Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE), 2007-2018

Project Overview

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In 2007, ACF initiated the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) evaluation, 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;
  • prioritize strategies focused on skills development; and
  • focus on a relatively wide population of low-income individuals (not limited to TANF recipients).

Based on stakeholder input, the PACE team came to focus on career pathways as the main intervention framework to study. Please see the Career Pathways Research Portfolio page for more information on career pathways and OPRE’s investments in research in this area.

The PACE team, led by Abt Associates, randomly assigned participants in nine sites operating innovative career pathways programs around the country. These PACE partners include:

PACE partner (Career Pathways Program)


DES MOINES AREA COMMUNITY COLLEGE (Workforce Training Academy Connect)

Students in the Workforce Training Academy Connect (WTA Connect) program received 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 WTA Connect program laddered 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. PACE evaluated the program at Bellingham Technical, Everett Community, and Whatcom Community Colleges.


Instituto del Progreso Latino is a large, non-profit education and employment organization in Chicago that serves the city’s growing Latino population. Launched in 2005, the goal of the Carreras program is to help low-income Latinos improve their basic skills and enroll in occupational training to gain the necessary skills and credentials for jobs as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), and ultimately Registered Nurse (RN). This site received some support from the Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) Program.


Patient Care Pathway program provided 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 was split into two tracks depending on the student’s skill level.

PIMA COMMUNITY COLLEGE (Pathways to Healthcare)

The Pathways to Healthcare program offered training to students in sixteen different healthcare professions. Some of the trainings include certified nursing assistant, medical records technician, EMT-Paramedics, and pharmacy technician. The length of training was 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 received support from Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) Program.

SAN DIEGO WORKFORCE PARTNERSHIP (Bridge to Employment in the Healthcare Industry)

The Bridge to Employment in the Healthcare Industry program enabled eligible adults to develop the skills and knowledge needed for emerging career opportunities in health care by providing financial assistance, extensive case management, and support services for training. This site received support from Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) Program.


Serving four large counties in southern Texas, the non-profit Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement’s (VIDA) primary goals are for participants to graduate with an associate’s degree or industry-recognized certificate in a high demand occupation and achieve living-wage employment in their area of study. VIDA provides comprehensive and intensive counseling services and substantial financial assistance to students, and in exchange requires students to enroll full-time and attend weekly counseling sessions.


Health Careers for All (HCA) was 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. The program provided students with access to tuition-free occupational training, individual case management, and employment or other supports. This site received support from the Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) Program.

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. Their 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 concluded in the fall of 2014. Short-term program impacts were assessed using program administrative data, a participant follow-up survey administered approximately 15-months after random assignment, and, in some cases, administrative data from the National Directory of New Hires. Implementation and early impact reports for all nine sites were released on a rolling basis in 2017 and 2018.

Data collected during the PACE evaluation has been archived for secondary analysis with the Inter-university Consortium on Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan. OPRE’s Archived Data page has more information on the PACE data and other data available for secondary analysis.

The Career Pathways Intermediate Outcomes Study and the Career Pathways Long-term Outcomes Study are continuing to track PACE participants, following up approximately three and six years after random assignment, respectively, to assess intermediate and longer term impacts of the PACE programs.

More information on the PACE project is available at

NOTE: From 2007 until the fall of 2014, PACE was known as the Innovative Strategies for Increasing Self-Sufficiency (ISIS) project.

The point of contact is Nicole Constance.

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