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Impacts of 10 PACE and HPOG 1.0 Occupational Training Programs

Randall Juras, Karen Gardiner, Laura Peck, and Larry Buron, Abt Global


December 1, 2022

This report summarizes the six-year impact findings from two large-scale evaluations of 10 programs—9 programs in the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) project plus the Health Profession Opportunity Grants Program (HPOG 1.0). The evaluations estimated the effect of education and training programs for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients and other adults with low incomes. The programs represent a range of strategies within the career pathways framework, which organizes postsecondary training as a series of manageable steps accompanied by strong supports and connections to employment.

All programs increased credential attainment, usually short-term credentials. Three programs increased college credentials taking a year or more to complete at the six-year mark.

One program, Year Up, increased earnings at the six-year mark. The lack of earnings impacts for the other programs may stem from multiple factors.

  • Programs did not provide distinctive enough training or services. Thus, control group members often had access to similar, even identical, training. In many programs, treatment and control group members enrolled in identical courses at the same colleges.
  • Participants often earned credentials associated with low wages. Treatment group members in most programs typically trained for entry-level credentials at the bottom rung of the career ladder, such as Certified Nursing Assistant certificates, rather than for higher-level and more lucrative certifications such as licensed vocational nurse. A short-duration credential may position the worker on the initial step of a career ladder, but without follow-on training, it is not likely to generate meaningful earnings gains on its own.
  • Treatment group participants generally did not return for another credential on the pathway.
  • In some programs, a meaningful share of treatment groups members did not engage in any training or services, making earnings impacts unlikely.

To produce earnings gains, programs should consider:

  • Targeting credentials with high economic returns
  • Offering strong financial support so that participants can attend longer training programs
  • Providing accelerated skills remediation to help participants reach the next pathway step
  • Encouraging participants to return for a subsequent occupational credential and providing required support
  • Providing intensive and mandatory career advising
  • Developing strong relationships with local employers

Exploring other “learn and earn” models that, like Year Up, enable participants to earn wages while in training.