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Expanding Economic Opportunities Through Evidence-Based Sector Training

American Enterprise Institute

August 3, 2023

  • Sectoral programs such as Year Up are strongly supported by evidence and have the potential for broad scaling.
  • Scaling to serve thousands more workers will require novel adaptations, such as shortened pathways to jobs and workforce ecosystems built with mission-aligned organizations.
  • Replicating and scaling sector-based training programs requires a strategic balance of philanthropy, employers, and the federal government.
  • Stable, reliable, and flexible funding is vital for scaling sector-based training programs. Promoting fidelity, avoiding ill-conceived or overly prescriptive policies that undermine program intent, and allowing sufficient time for results are important guidelines for successful implementation.

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The Workforce Futures Initiative is a research collaboration among the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, and the Project on Workforce at Harvard Kennedy School’s Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. The initiative aims to develop concise and actionable reviews of exist­ing research for federal, state, and local policymakers. Since August 2021, the group has provided a forum for researchers and practitioners to discuss policy ideas, evaluate evidence, and identify priorities for new research on the future of work and the public work­force system.

As part of the Workforce Futures Initiative, the fol­lowing reports analyze sectoral programs and ways to replicate and scale these programs by balancing funding from philanthropy, employers, and the fed­eral government and by creating policies that pro­mote fidelity and allow sufficient time for results to be analyzed.

In the first report, Scaling the Impact of Sector-Based Employment Strategies, Richard Hendra, Kelsey Schaberg, and Brent Orrell delve into the potential for scaling evidence-based and research-validated sector training programs such as those used by Year Up. They suggest these programs can enhance economic mobility and address inequality, but the key to effective scaling lies in successful replication, fidelity to the original models, and stable, flexible funding. Facilitating this hinges on documenting and codifying the elements of successful sector pro­grams to maintain quality. However, for the par­ticipants to transition successfully from training to employment, these sector programs should be supplemented with comprehensive supports that address non-training needs, such as direct subsi­dies, childcare, transportation, and mental health resources. By incorporating these principles, such programs could substantially amplify their impact, thereby addressing the economic inequalities and improving employment outcomes more effectively.

Responding to Hendra, Schaberg, and Orrell, the second report—Scaling Year Up to Maximize Access and Impact by Garrett A. R. Yursza Warfield—discusses Year Up, a national workforce devel­opment nonprofit that has been key in empow­ering young adults by bridging the opportunity divide through a blend of training and internships. Recently, the organization expanded its model to include the Professional Training Corps, targeting community college students with valuable techni­cal skills. To accommodate participants’ challenges such as family responsibilities and pandemic-related disruptions, Year Up adapted by creating flexible virtual program delivery. This expansion and evo­lution has underscored the importance of balancing growth with evidence-based practices, continuous evaluation, and enhanced employment outcomes for a wider population of workers.

Read the full report.