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Pathways for advancing careers and education: Cross program implementation and impact study findings (Gardiner & Juras, 2019)

  • Findings

    See findings section of this profile.

    Evidence Rating

    Not Rated

Review Guidelines

Absence of conflict of interest.


Gardiner, K., & Juras, R. (2019). Pathways for advancing careers and education: Cross program implementation and impact study findings (No. 2019-32). OPRE Report


  • The study’s objective was to examine the implementation of the nine programs included in Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE). The target populations varied by program but generally included low-skilled and low-income adults.
  • The study authors conducted an implementation evaluation using participant survey data as well as staff interview and program observation data collected via program site visits.
  • The study found that most programs experienced challenges with recruitment. Programs had more flexibility with how they designed basic skills training than with how they designed occupational training. Although every program offered advising (academic and non-academic), advising was not often mandated. Finally, treatment groups generally received more services than control groups, though service uses differed across programs and type of service.
  • The authors described limitations related to the participant survey, specifically that it may not have captured all support services received.
  • The embedded impact studies were reviewed by CLEAR in June 2022 [Year-Up, HCA, PCPP, WTAC, BTH, Carreras, PTH, I-BEST, VIDA]

Intervention Examined

Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE)

Features of the Intervention

  • Type of organization: Colleges, community organizations, workforce investment boards, workforce training programs
  • Location / setting: Multi-site
  • Population served and scale: 9,242 low-income, low-skilled adults
  • Industry focus: Multiple
  • Intervention activities: Education and training (skills and occupational); Career counseling; Additional services to address barriers to program involvement; Employment connections
  • Organizational partnerships: Social services; Colleges; Non-profit groups; Employers; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) offices; Other community-based organizations
  • Cost: Not included
  • Fidelity: Not included

PACE, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, evaluated nine programs that used a career pathways framework to help people build the skills to connect with employers and work in-demand jobs. The career pathways approach involves providing education and training through accessible steps.

The PACE programs served 9,242 low-income, low-skilled adults. Programs were located throughout the United States and provided by colleges, community organizations, workforce investment boards, and workforce training programs. Programs also worked with partners such as social services, colleges, non-profit groups, employers, TANF offices, and other community-based groups. Three of the programs were funded by the Health Profession Opportunity Grants Program. Programs were also funded by states, foundations, corporations, and grants.

Each PACE program differed in the specific services they offered and the content of their training. For example, programs offered training in healthcare, welding, administrative support, technology, information technology, electrical, and financial services. However, in general, all programs offered skills education and training, career counseling, support addressing barriers to program involvement, and employment connections.

Features of the Study

The authors conducted an implementation study using qualitative and quantitative data from participant surveys collected 18 months after random assignment and program observation and staff interview data collected via program site visits. The authors used statistical analysis to compare the number of people in each program’s treatment and control groups who accessed services.

The sample included 9,242 adults who were mainly low-income and low-skilled. Approximately half of the participants in the study were not traditionally-aged college students. Participants were 67.5% female and 34% of participants had children when the study began. 45% of participants identified as Hispanic or Latino, 28% of participants identified as non-Hispanic black, and 21% of participants identified as non-Hispanic white. Approximately 10% of participants did not complete high school, 41% of participants either had a high school diploma or had a GED. Some participants also reported that they had earned college credits (17% reported less than one year of credits and 24% reported more than one year of credits).


Intervention activities/services

  • The study found that programs that relied on existing courses (specifically occupational training), were often less able to innovate than those that did not rely on existing standard college courses.
  • The study found that although every program offered advising options, advising frequency and focus differed across programs.
  • The study found that support (financial support, academic support, and non-academic support) differed by program.
  • The study found that participants were connected to employment opportunities through activities such as clinical placements and workshops.
  • The study found that in general, treatment groups received significantly more services than control groups. Specifically, the study found that treatment groups had higher enrollment in education and training, received more career counseling, received more help arranging school/work/family supports, and received more services related to job placement as compared to control groups.
  • The study found that participation in program services varied by program and type of service. Education and training had high enrollment for both treatment and control groups. However, service use across treatment and control groups was lower for career counseling, help arranging support, and job placement and search services.

Implementation challenges and solutions

  • The study found that programs struggled to meet recruitment goals despite additional funding and marketing. For example, three programs were unable to meet their targets for study recruitment. Staff noted that using creative approaches such as advertising in new places and clearly explaining the study's details and importance to referral partners contributed to meeting or exceeding recruitment targets. Staff also shared that it was helpful to track recruitment strategies and only continue to use strategies that were effective.
  • The study found that programs experienced challenges related to implementing skills instruction. For example, programs had challenges related to scheduling, staff, experience, contextualization, and relying on existing course courses. Programs addressed challenges by hiring additional staff, training instructors, and using standardized curricula.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors did not provide details about the data collection and analysis methods. Additionally, the authors noted limitations related to the follow-up survey. The survey was designed with generic language for use across programs and was administered before participation concluded. Therefore, the survey may not have captured all support services received.

Additional Sources

Gardiner, K., & Juras, R. (2019). PACE Cross-Program Implementation and Impact Study Findings (Report No. 2019-32). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. [Embedded; Year Up, HCA, PCPP, WTAC, BTH, Carreras, PTH, I-BEST, VIDA]

Reviewed by CLEAR

July 2023

Topic Area