Findings from Workforce Pilot Show Increase in Earnings Among Low-income Individuals

by | Jun 28, 2016



Findings from Workforce Pilot Show Increase in Earnings among Low-income Individuals


WorkAdvance, the national, five-year demonstration program that had test sites in Northeast Ohio, exhibits promising results, with significant impact on earnings.


CLEVELAND – June 28, 2016 – The Fund for Our Economic Future (the Fund) and its grantee partner Towards Employment are pleased to share a summary of key findings from WorkAdvance, a national, five-year demonstration effort it supported in Northeast Ohio. WorkAdvance tested how a seamless set of services, with a focus on specific sectors and postemployment assistance, can better connect disadvantaged job seekers to in-demand jobs and put them on a path toward career advancement, while helping employers find the talent they need for their businesses to prosper.


Designed by MDRC, a national social policy research firm, in partner­ship with the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), WorkAdvance had test sites in New York; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Northeast Ohio, and was supported by the White House Social Innovation Fund and local partners.


MDRC’s rigorous evaluation and cost analysis, a summary of which was released today, provides valuable data and information for policymakers and workforce service providers, and a base of evidence for what works to produce cost-effective pathways to long-term employment and career advancement. In short, results of the randomized control trial indicate that sector-specific programs can significantly increase earnings among low-income individuals.


“The WorkAdvance demonstration was about breaking down silos and improving outcomes for job seekers and employers at no additional cost to taxpayers,” said Bethia Burke, director of grantmaking, evaluation and emerging initiatives at the Fund for Our Economic Future. “What we learned was that a continuum of sector-focused services works.”


Towards Employment, a 40-year-old workforce de­velopment organization in Cleveland with a mission to empower individuals to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through employment, has coordinated WorkAdvance in Northeast Ohio. Towards Employment was the only lead WorkAdvance provider that launched services in two very distinct sectors—health care and manufacturing—and coordinated services in two locations—Cuyahoga County and the Mahoning Valley, in partnership with Compass Family Services in Youngstown.


Nationally, the approach included attention to mar­keting, screening, career readiness and occupational skills, job development and placement, and postem­ployment retention and advancement. Some ele­ments were consistently applied across sites, and others were tailored to the local context. In North­east Ohio, collaboration among multiple partners across sectors was key to implementation.


Already, learnings from this demonstration are being adopted by Towards Employment and others around the region.


“Towards Employment has been able to leverage additional funding to support career pathways programming from the Department of Labor and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation,” noted Towards Employment Executive Director Jill Rizika. “And TalentNEO, a new pilot, has leveraged WorkAdvance relationships and learnings to support skills-based hiring in Northeast Ohio.”


The Fund and its members are keen to continue building on these lessons.


The WorkAdvance random control trial may be complete, but the real work is just beginning, said Deborah Vesy, president and CEO of Deaconess Foundation, and the Fund’s job preparation initiative leader.


“It is critical that local partners take up the lessons from this demonstration” she said. “To that end, our Fund is committed to helping others understand the findings and how they might apply these learnings to their own organizations and communities.”


A first step in ensuring adoption of WorkAdvance’s principles is distilling some of the lessons unique to Northeast Ohio. In late August, the Fund, jointly with Towards Employment, the Deaconess Foundation and The Raymond John Wean Foundation in Warren, will release Northeast Ohio-specific data and learnings, providing funders, practitioners, and public sector partners a deeper dive on the MDRC study. Stay tuned for more details in the coming months on this follow-on report and learning opportunities. In the meantime, contact Bethia Burke ( at the Fund for more information.




About the Fund for Our Economic Future


Founded in 2004, the Fund for Our Economic Future is a nonprofit member-driven organization that today consists of 50 funders—foundations, corporations, universities, health care systems, business and civic associations, government entities, and individuals—from across Northeast Ohio who pool their resources and collective know-how to improve the region’s economic competitiveness through strategies that advance job creation, job preparation and job access, an approach referred to as Growth & Opportunity. Since its inception, the Fund has raised more than $100 million of direct philanthropic resources—and much more in aligned support—for its priorities. The Fund’s efforts have helped retain or create more than 18,500 jobs, add $760 million in payroll, and attract $4 billion in capital to Northeast Ohio.




About Towards Employment


Towards Employment’s mission is to empower individuals to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through employment. Since 1976, the Cleveland-based nonprofit has helped more than 122,000 people prepare for a job, get a job, keep a job, and move up the career ladder through job readiness training, placement, retention and supportive services provided in a comprehensive and responsive manner. Towards Employment has a dual customer approach, ensuring our programming for jobseekers is informed by industry demand and responsive to hiring needs of local businesses. It helps employers find employees who can do the job, and helps people move forward on their pathway to prosperity.




Media Contacts


Sara Lepro


Manager of Communications


Fund for Our Economic Future






Adaora Schmiedl


Director of Development and Marketing


Towards Employment