A study published by MDRC showed that employer-facing workforce development programs led to higher wages for job seekers.

Last week, MDRC (a nationally-recognized organization that researches and evaluates social impact programs) released a study that confirmed what many workforce development leaders have known anecdotally for years: sector-focused workforce strategies are empirically shown to be more effective in advancing the skills and wages of workers.

The findings from the study were based on the WorkAdvance model piloted in New York, Ohio and Oklahoma that served low-income populations and that focused on job retention and advancement through workforce development programs. WorkAdvance uses strategies found in sector-based employment programs, combined with career coaching after participants are placed into jobs. MDRC’s research on the WorkAdvance model began in 2011, surveying and tracking more than 2,500 program participants across four different programs in three states. The results are encouraging. Together the four WorkAdvance sites helped participants earn an average of 14 percent (or nearly $2,000 in annual income) more than they otherwise would have earned two years after they entered the program.

The lessons learned from this MDRC report are relevant to our work here at South Central PA Works. For the past two years, we have embarked on implementing a sector-partnership approach to all the work we do, including preemployment and career readiness services and occupational skills training.

This sector-partnership strategy is an evidence-based model that is showing strong results in South Central PA for job seekers and employers alike. Our work with the Manufacturers’ Association of South Central PA through the Industry Partnership program is an example of a sector-focused model that has show tremendous results. Built around a network of dozens of local manufacturers, the Industry Partnership program is focused on supporting and growing a world-class manufacturing workforce across the region by moving employees along a career pathway and providing credentials and skill certificates that are all backed up by direct employer input. In the upcoming year through our partnership with MASCPA, we hope to train nearly 200 workers for in-demand skill sets such as CNC Machining, Industrial Electricity, Hydraulics and Welding, which will help boost productivity and wages for our workforce.

At SCPa Works, we believe strongly in evaluating and investing in what works. I am encouraged by this report from MDRC that helps strengthen the case for a sector-based strategy for workforce development programs, and we are looking forward to continuing to learn new ways we can invest our resources in the most effective and impactful ways.

More to come…