MDRC in the News

Industry-Focused Training Has the Power to Reduce Inequities in Employment

Commentary by Deondre’ Jones
Work Shift


Many policymakers are bullish on training programs designed for specific industries and occupations that have strong local demand. And there’s considerable evidence that well-designed programs do, in fact, help people advance in their careers and earn more…..

…..A year-three followup on the WorkAdvance initiative found that while white workers still earned more overall, participation in one of four industry-focused programs narrowed that gap for Black and Latino adults…..

…..Our research looked at whether industry-specific training programs, specifically those that were part of the WorkAdvance initiative, could address both parts of that challenge. The programs MDRC studied all provide career readiness and occupational skills training in targeted sectors to adults who are unemployed or earning low wages. We evaluated impact using a randomized controlled trial design in four sites, with more than 2,500 participants, 50 percent of whom identified as Black/African American, 18 percent as white, and 17 percent as Latino…..

…..The findings among these subgroups are likely being driven in part by the demographic distribution of these subgroups across the sites. For example, more than half of the Latino population in the study was with a single provider, Per Scholas, a New York-based training program with many years of experience focused on the IT sector, which in part led to it having higher earnings levels and larger earnings impacts than any other site…..

…..Taken together, these findings suggest that programs focused on specific high-demand industries can address some of the systemic employment disparities that Black and Latino job seekers face…..

…..The need for better workforce development programs for marginalized communities is well documented. The WorkAdvance model shows what might be possible on a larger scale.

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