Absence of conflict of interest.
Martinson, K., Williams, J., Needels, K., Peck, L., Moulton, S., Paxton, N., Mastri, A., Copson, E., Comfort, A., & Brown-Lyons, M. (2016). The Green Jobs and Health Care impact evaluation: Findings from the impact study of four training programs for unemployed and disadvantaged workers. Retrieved from https://wdr.doleta.gov/research/FullText_Documents/ETAOP-2017-07%20Findings%20from%20the%20Impact%20Study.pdf
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) Pathways to Prosperity program on education, earnings, and employment outcomes.
- The study was a randomized controlled trial. The authors used a baseline information form, the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH), a follow-up survey, and administrative program data to compare the outcomes between the treatment and control groups over an 18-month follow-up period.
- The study found that the GRCC Pathways to Prosperity program had a significant positive impact on completion rates for vocational training and life skills classes, and receipt of a vocational credential.
- 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 GRCC Pathways to Prosperity program and not to other factors.
The Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) Pathways to Prosperity Program
Features of the Intervention
In response to the 2008 recession, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) sponsored several initiatives to train unemployed and economically disadvantaged workers and help them reenter the labor market. The Pathways to Prosperity program was one of these initiatives administered by the Employment and Training Administration (ETA). The Pathways grant program funded training in green occupations (e.g., energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors) for adult learners in high poverty areas that were from economically disadvantaged populations, specifically targeting individuals who were unemployed, high school dropouts, and ex-offenders. In January 2010, DOL awarded a Pathways grant to Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) in Grand Rapids, Michigan to operate training programs in green related industries. The main focus of the Pathways to Prosperity program at GRCC was to provide vocational training in green jobs to low-income adults. The program also provided pre-occupational training courses to improve school and work readiness and Adult Basic Education (ABE) and GED prep classes. In addition to the training, the program offered a range of support services to assist participants with program completion and employment. These included academic advising, tutoring, transportation, child care, financial assistance, employment assistance, career and goal planning, and connections with employers.
Features of the Study
The study used a randomized controlled trial to test the impact of the GRCC Pathways to Prosperity program. The evaluation and random assignment began in August 2011. Study participants included 277 eligible program applicants. Potential participants were first recruited and then program staff determined eligibility based on their applications. After giving their informed consent and completing a baseline information form, study participants were randomly assigned using a computer-based lottery-like process to either the treatment or control group. The treatment group included 186 participants that gained access to the services of the GRCC Pathways to Prosperity program but were not required to use them. The control group included 91 participants who did not have access to the program services, but they could access other services available in the community. Data sources included a baseline information form, a follow-up survey, administrative program data, and data from the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH). Short term program impacts were estimated 18 months after random assignment. The authors conducted statistical models to compare differences in outcomes between the treatment and control groups. Outcomes included completion of training and classes, attainment of educational credentials, employment, and earnings.
Education and skills gain
- The study found that completion rates were significantly higher among treatment group participants compared to the control group for vocational training (a difference of 33 percentage points) and life skills classes (a difference of 25 percentage points). However, no significant differences in completion rates were found between the groups for ABE/GED classes or college-level courses.
- The study also found that the GRCC Pathways to Prosperity program had a significant positive impact on educational attainment. Higher proportions of students in the treatment group compared to the control group received a vocational credential (a difference of 26 percentage points) or an "other" type of credential (a difference of 22 percentage points). No significant differences were found between the groups in attainment of a GED/high school diploma, or an Associate or Bachelor degree.
Earnings and wages
- The study did not find a significant difference in earnings outcomes between the treatment and control groups.
- The study did not find a significant difference in employment outcomes between the treatment and control groups.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
Although the study was a well-implemented randomized controlled trial, the study authors note that the smaller sample sizes limited the ability to detect statistically significant program impacts. Also, the programs’ impacts may be understated since control group participants were allowed to access other community-based services during the study. These other services in the community might have contributed to the null findings for some of the outcomes.
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 GRCC Pathways to Prosperity program and not to other factors.