Absence of conflict of interest.
de la Mora, A., Callen, E., Kemis, M., & Abraham, W. (2017). 2016 PETC annual evaluation report, Eastern Iowa Community Colleges. Ames, IA: RISE.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Pathways to Engineering Technology Careers (PETC) program on earnings and employment outcomes.
- Using student surveys and wage data, the study used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of students in the PETC program to a comparison group.
- The study found that students in the PETC program were more likely to have higher wages than students in the comparison group.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the PETC program; other factors are likely to have contributed.
The Pathways to Engineering Technology Careers (PETC) Program
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.
Eastern Iowa Community Colleges was awarded a four-year TAACCCT grant to support education and training for jobs with high wages and high skills required. Eastern Iowa Community Colleges includes Clinton, Muscatine, and Scott. The Pathways to Engineering Technology Careers (PETC) program provided training in manufacturing. The program included services for students, regional marketing, and a goal to increase student enrollment in Engineering Technology courses. Using a hybrid model of online and face-to-face training, the program was flexible and self-paced for students.
Features of the Study
Using student surveys and wage data from the state of Iowa, the authors used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of students in the PETC program (treatment group) to students in the Engineering Technology programs prior to PETC in Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 (comparison group). While 483 participants were enrolled in the program for the four years of implementation (2012-2016), 85 completed the program with 221 still enrolled in the program as of June 30, 2016, the time of the evaluation. The final analysis group included 19 students in the treatment group, enrolled from Fall 2014 through Spring 2015; the comparison group also included 19 students. The authors conducted t-tests to test the differences between the treatment and comparison groups on the outcomes of earnings and employment.
Earnings and wages
- The study found that PETC program participation was significantly associated with higher average wages, with students in the PETC program earning $4,500 more than students in the comparison group during the second full quarter after two semesters of enrollment.
- The study found no significant relationship between PETC program participation and the number of jobs held post-intervention.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors did not account for preexisting differences between the groups before program participation or include sufficient control variables. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not the PETC program—could explain the observed differences in outcomes. The authors also 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. The authors also noted that they had small sample sizes, which limited the type of analyses that they were able to complete. They excluded participants from the analysis who had no wages during the time of the study, non-Iowa residents, and those who received an Associate degree. 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 report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the PETC program; other factors are likely to have contributed.