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Growing Regional Opportunity for the Workforce (Project GROW): Final evaluation report. (Patnaik et al. 2016)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Patnaik, A., O'Shea, D., & Prince, H. (2016). Growing Regional Opportunity for the Workforce (Project GROW): Final evaluation report. The University of Texas, Austin Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources.

Highlights

  • The study's objective was to examine the impact of Project GROW (Growing Regional Opportunities for the Workforce) on education, earnings, and employment outcomes.
  • The study used a nonexperimental design comparing the outcomes of students in Project GROW to a matched comparison group. Using data from the Workforce Investment Boards’ Administrative System for Program Partners and administrative data from the Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the authors conducted statistical models to examine differences between the groups.
  • The study found no statistically significant differences between the treatment and the comparison group on education, earnings, or employment outcomes.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this study is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Project GROW, but other factors might also have contributed.

Intervention Examined

Project Growing Regional Opportunities for the Workforce (GROW)

Features of the Intervention

Project Growing Regional Opportunities for the Workforce (GROW) was funded through the Department of Labor's Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF) grant. Project GROW was implemented across five Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) on the Texas-Mexico border (Lower Rio Grande, Middle Rio Grande, South Texas, Upper Rio Grande, and Cameron). The program was designed to build strategies for increasing credentials, employment, and job advancement in occupations that were in high demand. The approach included collaboration across the WIBs, career pathways programming to include accelerated credentials, a cohort approach for students based on academic proficiency from adult basic education scores, an IT platform to promote communication and performance management data, an at-home learning system, case management, employer engagement, and capacity building services. Training providers included Texas State Technical College, South Texas College, Laredo Community College, South Texas Junior College, and El Paso Community College.

In order to be eligible to participate, students had to be U.S. citizens or eligible to work in the U.S., meet Selective Service guidelines, agree to one of four target jobs for training, and meet the cohort assignments based on the Test of Basic Adult Education (TABE) assessment. The cohorts have the following specifications: those with a high school diploma or GED who had high school level scores on the TABE assessment but were not ready for college; those without a high school diploma or GED but with high school TABE assessment scores; and those without a high school diploma or GED and scores that were below high school on the TABE assessment.

Features of the Study

The study used a nonexperimental design to compare outcomes between students who participated in Project GROW to a matched comparison group of students who did not. The analytic sample included 415 individuals in the Project GROW treatment group and 5,011 individuals in the comparison group. The treatment group received Project GROW services at one of the five designated WIBs. The comparison group were participants at each WIB who were similar in characteristics to Project GROW participants but were not participating in Project GROW. The comparison group had minimal services based on the intensity and duration of services. The study authors used data from the WIB’s Administrative System for Program Partners (which included participant demographics, enrollment information, training assignments, and program completion). The study authors also linked administrative data from the Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to access long-term data including Unemployment Insurance data as well as TANF, Medicaid, and SNAP data. The authors used statistical models with control variables to compare the differences in outcomes between the treatment and the comparison groups. Outcomes included program completion, occupational credential attainment, job placement, job retention, wage gain, and average earnings change in six months.

Findings

Education and skills gain

  • The study found no statistically significant relationship between Project GROW and program completion or credential attainment.

Earnings and wages

  • The study found no statistically significant relationship between Project GROW and wage gain or earnings.

Employment

  • The study found no statistically significant relationship between Project GROW and employment placement or employment retention.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The statistical matching procedure included an extensive list of variables to ensure that the Project GROW participants and the matched comparison group members were similar on observed characteristics. The authors provided ample evidence that the matching procedure resulted in comparable groups. However, as with any nonexperimental design, it is possible that unobservable factors might have contributed to the estimated effects.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this study is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Project GROW, but other factors might also have contributed; however, the study did not find any statistically significant effects.

Additional Sources

O'Shea, D., Prince, H., Patnaik, A., Khan, A., & Cumpton, G. (2014). Growing Regional Opportunity for the Workforce: Project GROW taking root in the Texas-Mexico border areas. Austin, TX: The University of Texas, Austin Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources.

Reviewed by CLEAR

January 2021

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