Absence of conflict of interest.
de la Mora, A., Kemis, M., Callen, E., & Starobin, S. (2016). 2016 I-AM annual evaluation report: Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Statewide Consortium. Ames, IA: Research Institute for Studies in Education (RISE), Iowa State University.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Consortium (I-AM) on welding student’s education, earnings, and employment outcomes.
- The study used a nonexperimental design to compare outcomes of students in the I-AM program to a matched comparison group of students.
- The study found that participating in the I-AM program was significantly associated with higher rates of credential attainment, larger numbers of certificates and welding awards earned, higher employment rates, and higher earnings.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this study is low because the authors used a comparison group from previous enrollment years presenting a confounding factor. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to I-AM; other factors are likely to have contributed.
The Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Consortium (I-AM)
Features of the Intervention
The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program provided $1.9 billion in grants to community colleges to improve skills and support employment in high-demand industries, notably manufacturing, health care, information technology, energy, and transportation. Through four rounds of funding, DOL awarded 256 TAACCCT grants to approximately 800 educational institutions across the United States and its territories.
The Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Consortium (I-AM) was comprised of all 15 community colleges in the state. In 2012, I-AM received a TAACCCT grant that allowed the colleges to expand their marketing efforts to attract students, enroll more students, provide enrolled students with advising and career counseling, and improve their programs (e.g., by offering courses aligned to industry needs, new industry-recognized certifications, online and hybrid courses, and updating their facilities). I-AM focused on seven programs: Welding Technician/Technology, Computer Numerical Control (CNC)/Tool and Die Machining, Industrial Maintenance, Industrial Automation, Manufacturing Technology, Robotics, and Transportation and Logistics. The study authors did not indicate if there were eligibility criteria to enter the I-AM program.
Features of the Study
The nonexperimental study was conducted at 13 of the 15 community colleges in Iowa and compared students who participated in the I-AM program (specifically the for-credit welding program) to students who did not. The authors matched participants enrolled in the I-AM program to similar nonparticipants, using propensity scores developed from demographic, education, employment, and wage information. The treatment group consisted of 364 students who enrolled in an I-AM for-credit welding program between fall 2013 and spring 2014. The comparison group consisted of 1,207 students who enrolled in a for-credit welding program between fall 2010 and spring 2012, with 364 students included after matching. Data sources included the I-AM student database, the Iowa Department of Education, and the Iowa Workforce Development Agency. The authors used t-tests to compare the means of students in the treatment and comparison groups for the educational, employment, and earnings outcomes reported in the study.
Education and Skills Gain
- The study found a significant relationship between I-AM program participation and credential attainment, with higher proportions of I-AM students than comparison students earning at least one certificate (9% vs. 4%) or a diploma (19% vs. 1%).
- The study also found that I-AM program participation was significantly related to the number of certificates earned and the number of welding awards earned, with treatment students earning more certificates and welding awards than students in the comparison group.
Earnings and Wages
- The study found that I-AM program participation was significantly associated with higher average wages one quarter after completing one year in the program, with students in the I-AM program earning an average of $3,968 compared to an average of $3,285 for comparison group students.
- The study found that I-AM program participation was significantly related to employment, with students in the I-AM program being more likely to have a job one quarter after completing one year in the program than students in the comparison group.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors used a cohort from previous enrollment years as the comparison group. Because the outcome data on the two groups were collected from participants at different times, differences in outcomes could be due to time-varying factors (such as overall changes in the economy) and not the intervention. Therefore, the study is not eligible for a moderate causal evidence rating, the highest rating available for nonexperimental designs.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this study is low because the authors used a comparison group from previous enrollment years presenting a confounding factor. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the I-AM program; other factors are likely to have contributed.