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Can sector strategies promote longer-term effects? Three-year impacts from the WorkAdvance demonstration (Schaberg 2017)

Review Guidelines

Absence of conflict of interest.


Schaberg, K. (2017). Can sector strategies promote longer-term effects? Three-year impacts from the WorkAdvance demonstration. New York: MDRC. [All sites]


  • The study's objective was to examine the impact of the WorkAdvance sectoral training program on year three earnings outcomes. This profile focuses on the pooled evaluation findings. The authors investigated questions for each site, the profiles can be found here.
  • The study used a randomized controlled trial to compare the year three outcomes of the participants that received the WorkAdvance program and the control group that did not receive WorkAdvance services. Using state unemployment insurance wage data, the authors compared the year three earnings between the groups.
  • The study found that treatment group participants had significantly higher earnings in year three than control group participants.
  • This study receives a high evidence rating. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to WorkAdvance, and not to other factors.

Intervention Examined


Features of the Intervention

WorkAdvance was a sectoral training program that provided education and training in high-demand fields. WorkAdvance included five components: intensive prospective participant screening; preemployment and career readiness services applicable to the target sector; sectoral occupational skills training; sectoral job development and placement services; and retention and advancement support post-employment. The program was intended to serve unemployed workers and low-wage workers whose household income does not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

The program was implemented at four sites: 1) Per Scholas in the Bronx, New York that focused on the information technology sector; 2) St. Nicks Alliance in Brooklyn, New York that focused on the environmental remediation sector; 3) Madison Strategies Group in Tulsa, Oklahoma that focused on the transportation and manufacturing sectors; and 4) Towards Employment in Northeast Ohio that focused on the health care and manufacturing sectors.

Features of the Study

This study is a randomized controlled trial of 2,564 WorkAdvance participants who enrolled in one of four participating sites between June 2011 and June 2013. Across the four sites combined, 1,293 participants were randomly assigned to the WorkAdvance program (treatment group) and 1,271 were assigned to the control group. Control group members did not have access to WorkAdvance but could independently seek out other employment or training services in the community. There was cross-site variation on participants' gender distribution, education, employment status at the time of enrollment, public benefits receipt status, and history of justice involvement. The study used unemployment insurance wage data from the three states with WorkAdvance sites (New York, Ohio, and Oklahoma). The authors conducted a statistical model to compare year three earnings outcomes between the treatment and control groups.


Earnings and wages.

  • The study found that treatment participants earned $1865 more than control participants in year three. This difference was statistically significant.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The treatment condition largely reflected the WorkAdvance model. The authors note that full model implementation took some time, suggesting that participants enrolling later in the study period may have received services more closely aligned with the model than those received by participants enrolling early in the study period. Additionally, early in the study period, two study sites offered a "placement-first" track that allowed participants to seek employment without first receiving training. This approach was phased out roughly halfway through the enrollment period.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high, because it is based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the WorkAdvance program, and not to other factors.

Additional Sources

Schaberg, K., & Greenberg, D.H. (2020). Long-term effects of a sectoral advancement strategy: Costs, benefits, and impacts from the WorkAdvance demonstration. New York: MDRC.

Reviewed by CLEAR

July 2022

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