Redefining Workforce Development in Northeast Ohio: How National WorkAdvance Demonstration Made Local Impact

Nov 29, 2016

The Fund for Our Economic Future, Deaconess Foundation and The Raymond John Wean Foundation, along with grantee partner Towards Employment, are pleased to release a local impact report on WorkAdvance, a national pilot tested in Northeast Ohio over the last five years that demonstrated an ability to deliver workforce services more effectively for low-income individuals. Employers can be connected to talent they need, while individuals can enjoy better earnings and increased potential for career advancement. 

Coordinated locally by Towards Employment and supported by the Fund for Our Economic Future and other national funders, WorkAdvance showed that a comprehensive provision of services, focusing on targeted sectors and emphasizing advancement, could lead to better outcomes for disadvantaged jobseekers and employers. The local report builds off of analysis released by social policy research firm MDRC in August, titled "Encouraging Evidence on a Sector-Focused Advancement Strategy," that includes results for the test sites in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and New York, in addition to Northeast Ohio. 

Results show WorkAdvance is a clear winner. Northeast Ohio program participants accessed more services; were 49 percent more likely to work in a targeted sector (health care or manufacturing) and more likely to be working regular shift, fulltime, or in a permanent job, and in a job with opportunities for career advancement; and averaged a 14 percent increase in earnings after two years. 

A key revelation was the important role career coaching plays in an individual's advancement along a career pathway. Those who received WorkAdvance services in Northeast Ohio were 10 times more likely to have advanced if they accessed post-employment coaching.  Another key success factor in the local implementation was collaboration across multiple partners in Cuyahoga County and the Mahoning Valley.

"As the research reflects, the impact of this work is significant," said Jennifer Roller, president of The Raymond John Wean Foundation in Warren. 

With promising evidence-based results, WorkAdvance demonstrated impressive potential to contribute to long-term workforce solutions that give more individuals the opportunity to advance along a career pathway and into jobs that provide family-sustaining wages, and that connect employers to the talent they need for their businesses to prosper. 

"Nothing has been tested and vetted like this model," said Deborah Vesy, president of the Deaconess Foundation.Northeast Ohio practitioners, policymakers, philanthropic funders, and private-sector businesses can leverage WorkAdvance to improve on past workforce development strategies and bring this successful model to scale. While each plays a different role in the system, collectively, the entire community can take actions to drive adoption of WorkAdvance principles. These include:

  • Spend money better. This requires understanding existing constraints of the funding system and advocating with the local philanthropic community to deliver the model to more people through expanded collaboration to scale it.
  • Promote core elements of Northeast Ohio WorkAdvance delivery. This includes encouraging collaboration; promoting sector-based strategies through sector partnerships; and mandating a career pathway framework.
  • Build into policy and practice. To ensure the long-term sustainability of the model, state- and federal-level decision makers must know of its success. This will require advocacy and effort.

"Ultimately, we hope WorkAdvance contributes to improving the lives of individuals in our region, while strengthening the talent pipeline for local businesses to grow and thrive," said Bethia Burke, director of strategy and resource allocation for the Fund for Our Economic Future.

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