Posts Tagged ‘sector strategies’

Another thing that caught my eye in that NY Times story was this tidbit:

Alexandria Wallace grew up in a middle-class home topped by Spanish tile, with a swimming pool out back and a view of jagged reddish mountains. Her decline from work to welfare began in the spring of 2009.

She was working three days a week at a call center for Verizon Wireless, earning about $9.50 an hour while attending beauty school at night to earn a license as a cosmetologist. She aimed to use earnings from that profession as a springboard to nursing school.

It’s great that Alexandria has a plan in mind for how to climb up the economic ladder, but it seems to me that she (and others like her that I’ve met) could use some pretty basic career guidance. You see, there’s no reason to start with Cosmetology and then use that to pay her way through nursing school. Instead, Alexandria could be training to become a Certified Nursing Assistant, where she could be getting some health care experience and quite possibly have an employer that will sponsor her as she later attends nursing school to become a Licensed Practical Nurse or Registered Nurse. In Tulsa, training to become a CNA takes far less time than cosmetology school and results in roughly the same pay (roughly $10/hour). In fact, in the same amount of hours is takes to complete Tulsa Technology Center’s cosmetology program, Alexandria could have completed their Licensed Practical Nursing program and be earning almost $16/hour.

Even when someone has a vision for where they want to go in their career, they often don’t know how to get there. And not only do they not know how, they end up taking steps that are unnecessary and in fact make it more difficult to get there – by attending high-cost proprietary schools, enrolling in the wrong classes, or taking on student loans before using federal financial aid such as Pell. Those missteps ultimately frustrate students – particularly adult learners and first generation college students – with the whole educational process. Good, clear career guidance – illustrating career ladders, comparative length of training, and wages – can go such a long way.


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Washington, D.C. – This week I’m at the national conference of the National Network of Sector Partners. The conference will cover a wide range of topics related to industry driven workforce development initiatives, including sector case studies, policy and systems change, green jobs and other emerging industries, and program sustainability. Dinner Thursday night is being keynoted by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. If you want to help me choose some sessions, take a look at the list of workshops and tell me what you’d find most interesting. (Obviously I have ideas of my own so no promises to take your advice!)

I’m hoping to do some “tape-delayed” blogging (as opposed to live blogging – don’t think I have the attention span to listen and blog at the same time) throughout the conference so be looking forward to that.

To help you get excited, here’s an article on successes among the ultimate low-skilled population – house pets – in attaining college degrees. Online learning is really breaking new ground! Like in the human world, I think the main problem here is insufficient focus on emerging job sectors and attainable career pathways. On the other hand, George the Cat successfully joined the British Board of Neuro Linguistic Programming. Wages for that profession sound promising!

Image used under a Creative Commons license from flickr user inmasera.

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As some of you may know, Tulsa Initiative has spent much of the past year exploring the feasibility of offering high-quality employment and training services to CAP families. These types of programs can get pretty expensive prety quickly, and thus there’s been a longstanding debate on the cost-effectiveness of “jobs” programs (see this article by our friend Chris King).


Emerging evidence is showing that new workforce models that combine certain essential elements show great promise. Public/Private Ventures has just released a research brief examining the characteristics and outcomes of three successful workforce programs around the country.  Over the 24-month period, they find that participants:

  • increased earnings by 18.3 percent over a control group, with employed participants earning $3,300 more than controls,
  • worked 1.3 more months than the control,
  • were 11 percentage points more likely to work all 12 months in the second year,
  • and worked in jobs that offered benefits (paid sick leave, vacation, health insurance) for 1.5 months longer.

Eight and sixteen seem to be the magic numbers here. Significant effects on earnings and probability of employment first emerge after eight months, once many participants have completed the program, and widen over time after that. At sixteen months, differences between employed participants and employed controls first become significant. This indicates that services first improve initial employability and job security and, over time, lead participants to better jobs that pay more and offer benefits when compared to a control group. Thus, funders need to remember 8 and 16 when demanding results from workforce programs. 

So what is it about these programs that make them more successful than earlier workforce models? (more…)

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