Progress on Pathways: Findings from Qualitative Interviews with PACE Participants

February 8, 2018
Self-Sufficiency, Welfare & Employment
Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE), 2007-2018 | Learn more about this project
Progress on Pathways: Findings from Qualitative Interviews with PACE Participants
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  • Pages 8
  • Published 2018


This brief summarizes findings from interviews conducted with participants in Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE), a rigorous evaluation of nine career pathways programs. Program applicants were randomly assigned to a treatment group that could access the career pathways program or a control group that could not. This brief describes the experiences of interviewees in the treatment group, two years after entering the study. Respondents reflect on the progress they’ve made on their chosen career pathways.

Research Questions

  1. 1 Did treatment group members’ motivation and support systems help sustain them through training and into jobs and/or additional schooling?
  2. 2 Did financial or other challenges impede their progress?
  3. 3 How do treatment group members assess their progress along their chosen career pathway?


This is one of five briefs that describe findings from in-depth interviews with PACE study participants. The goal of the PACE qualitative sub-study is to gain a more comprehensive understanding of participants’ motivation for wanting to enroll in a career pathways program, their likelihood of success, their experiences with program services, challenges they experienced to completing programs, and supports that helped them succeed. A first round of interviews occurred about six months after randomization, when treatment group members were beginning their chosen training programs. This brief focuses on the experiences of treatment group members at a second point in time, two years following their entry into the study.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • Most interviewees still in school had moved on to a second training step in the career pathways program. These participants cited the importance of their initial training in getting them started in the career area.
  • Those still in school reported high levels of motivation to succeed, and some were contemplating obtaining additional education, such as a graduate degree. Yet, they also discussed ongoing financial strain and challenges balancing increasingly difficult course work with family responsibilities.
  • Many participants who had finished training and worked in the field were in low-paying jobs. This reflects their completion of the initial step on the training pathway, generally for an entry-level job. Many of these participants had cycled through a number of jobs since finishing their training. Most believed they would return to school in the near future, but cited a need to work in order to save money for classes or a desire to learn more skills by working.
  • A smaller number of participants discussed challenges in progressing along their career pathway. These included difficulties finding a job in the field in which they trained (or any job at all), being on a waiting list to start the next step of their training, or being unable to complete the first training in the career pathway.


The research team interviewed 22 treatment group members about two years following study intake. This group was a subset of the 84 treatment group members randomly selected from all nine programs in PACE and first interviewed six months following study intake. The research team conducted semi-structured interviews in-person for the first round and over the telephone for the second round. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed into word processing documents, and imported into a qualitative analysis software package. This brief includes findings from interviews pooled across programs, rather than findings specific to an individual program.


Seefeldt, Kristin. (2017). Progress on Pathways: Findings from Qualitative Interviews with Participants in the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education Evaluation. OPRE Report #2017-113, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Last Reviewed: February 6, 2018