Stable and decent-paying employment with potential for growth is critical for individuals and their families. A skilled and productive workforce is also essential for America’s employers and our country’s overall economic health. For over two decades, SPR has provided policymakers and practitioners with evidence-based insight into how to develop and support such a workforce, and ensure that all individuals—no matter what barriers they face—can be part of that workforce. This work has included studies of the public workforce development system, research and technical assistance around performance and reporting systems for workforce development programs, career pathways and sector strategies, and workforce development programs for special populations such as youth, justice-involved individuals, aging workers, farmworkers and veterans.
Project Snapshot by Subject Area
SPR researchers are nationally recognized experts on the public workforce development system, particularly its core federally-funded programs. We have studied innovative approaches to reforming the workforce system, and programs and strategies for serving specific populations that struggle to succeed in the labor market. Since SPR’s founding in 1991, we have evaluated nearly every major federally-funded workforce program, as well as One-Stop Career Centers—now American Job Centers—since their inception.
Workforce System Core Programs
The nation’s workforce system offers numerous public programs to connect with employment and training opportunities through both the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and state agencies.
- Institutional Analysis of American Job Centers. SPR is conducting this study to analyze the structure and operations of AJCs through multi-day site visits to AJCs, phone interviews with representatives of state workforce development agencies, surveying AJC partners, and collecting administrative data.
- Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs Impact Evaluation. SPR is conducting this evaluation across 28 randomly-selected Local Workforce Investment Areas across the country. The evaluation uses a three-group random assignment design to test the impact of program services on participants’ employments, earnings, and other outcomes, as well as an implementation study to understand variations in service delivery across the participating sites.
- Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Program. For this seven-year study, SPR examined the TAA program’s design and service delivery strategies and used quasi-experimental methods to estimate its impacts on workers’ subsequent employment and earnings. SPR led this project, with Mathematica Policy Research as a subcontractor.
Other Key Projects
- Technical Assistance and Training for the Office of Regional Management
- Opening Doors for Everyone: Providing Strengths-Based Customer Service at One Stop Career Centers
- Integrated Intake and Effective Case Management
- Implementation of the Workforce Investment Act
- One-Stop Self Services
- Individual Training Account Demonstration
For a full list of SPR’s workforce projects, please see the Workforce and Human Services Division project page.
Innovative Approaches in Workforce Development
To complement the workforce system’s core programs and services, the Department of Labor also funds demonstration programs to test innovative approaches in workforce development. SPR has had the privilege of working on numerous evaluations of new programs designed to approach our nation’s workforce needs with an innovative lens.
- Aging Worker Initiative. SPR conducted a process study and an outcomes study of ten demonstration projects that were charged with developing innovative and effective program models to recruit and train aging workers for careers in high-growth industries and improve the overall capacity of regional education and training systems to serve aging workers.
- Technology-Based Learning Demonstration. SPR conducted an implementation and outcome evaluation of the twenty projects funded by TBL grants to understand how these programs were designed and their preliminary outcomes for job seekers.
- STEM Opportunities in the Workforce System Initiative. SPR conducted a process and outcomes study for this grant program which funded a series of demonstration projects focused on preparing disadvantaged Americans for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) jobs.
For a full list of SPR’s workforce projects, please see the Workforce and Human Services Division project page.
Workforce Innovation Fund
The U.S. Department of Labor awarded three rounds of Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF) grants to state and local workforce agencies to support projects that seek to design evidence-based program strategies. All WIF grantees are required to have an evaluation partner, and SPR has been pleased to serve this role for five different grantees.
- Accelerated Training for Illinois Manufacturing (ATIM) WIF Grant. SPR’s evaluation of the ATIM program included an implementation study to explore variations and challenges in program delivery, a stakeholder survey and social network analysis to examine the development and strength of regional partnerships, and a random assignment impact study to analyze the program’s effects on WIA-eligible adults and dislocated workers.
- Los Angeles Reconnections Career Academy (LARCA) WIF Grant. SPR conducted a random assignment evaluation of the Los Angeles Reconnections Career Academy (LARCA), a program that targets out-of-school youth and provides them with educational, work readiness, supportive, and training services.
- Southwest Michigan Employee Resource Network Expansion WIF grant. SPR provided formative and summative assessments of the expansion efforts of the Southwest Michigan Employer Resource Networks (ERNs) which offer companies valuable support in connecting their low-income workers to supportive services. An implementation study to document the process of implementing the expansion, and an outcomes analysis to assess the association between the expanded ERN and the subsequent experiences of its participants is forthcoming.
Other Key Projects
- Youth Ambassadors for Peace WIF Grant
- Los Angeles Regional Initiatives for Social Enterprise (LA:RISE) WIF grant
For a full list of SPR’s workforce projects, please see the Workforce and Human Services Division project page.
To ensure program accountability and promote program quality, the Department of Labor requires its funded programs to collect and report outcome data for use in measuring performance across and within the system. To complement our work using these data for evaluation, SPR has also conducted a number of projects to (1) evaluate the performance measurement system, (2) assist the Department in processing these data, and (3) assist states and local areas in improving their performance data quality and system infrastructure.
- Workforce Data Quality Initiative. SPR has provided technical assistance to five rounds of the Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI). WDQI support states to develop and improve longitudinal workforce databases to increase data quality and accessibility.
- Workforce System Data Analysis. For over twenty years, SPR has overseen the analysis of U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) program performance data, including processing, conducting data quality reviews, and creating summary reports for nearly all of ETA’s major workforce programs.
- Workforce Investment Act Standardized Record Data (WIASRD) Online Training. The Workforce Investment Act Standardized Record Data (WIASRD) is a collection of records on individual participants in WIA programs. SPR provided technical assistance for WIASRD by creating a multi-lesson online training with real-life scenarios for state and local staff who need to access and utilize this data.
Other Key Projects
- Administrative Data Research and Analysis (ADRA) Project
- American Samoa National Emergency Grants Technical Assistance
- WIA Performance Measurement System
- National Emergency Grant (NEG) Data Review Project
SPR is a nationally recognized expert on career pathways and has extensive experience evaluating and providing technical assistance on career pathway development, including K-12 schools and community colleges. SPR published a Career Pathways Toolkit, for the U.S. Department of Labor, a widely disseminated guide for practitioners and policymakers for improving the skills, knowledge, and credential attainment of American workers. SPR has also evaluated career pathway programs in the manufacturing, energy, information technology, and health sectors.
Community College Career Pathways and Sector Strategies
SPR’s evaluations of community college career pathways and sector strategies include formative, implementation, outcome and quasi-experimental impact studies. SPR works collaboratively with colleges to collect timely data to inform the development of career pathways, intrusive advising, job placement, employer and workforce system engagement, as well as technology-based and competency-based learning.
- Evaluation of the Michigan Coalition for Advanced Manufacturing (M-CAM). SPR’s evaluation of this Round 3 single-state TAACCCT consortium involves eight community colleges that are expanding and improving career pathways in Advanced Manufacturing.
- The Evaluation of ShaleNET U.S. SPR is evaluating ShaleNET, a Round 2 multi-state TAACCCT consortium of four community colleges working to expand career pathways for high-demand jobs in the shale gas and oil industry.
- The Evaluation of the Accelerated Training for Illinois Manufacturing. For this Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF) evaluation project, SPR evaluated the development of regional manufacturing partnerships designed to strengthen career pathways in manufacturing.
Other Key Projects
- The Evaluation of the Bellevue College Consortium Health e-Workforce TAACCCT Grant
- The Evaluation of the Connecting Competencies to Employers (C2E) Mechatronics Technician TAACCCT Grant
- The Evaluation of the Mount Wachusett TAACCCT Grant
- The Evaluation of the North Idaho TAACCCT Grant
K-12 Career Pathways
SPR has extensive experience evaluating grant-funded programs involving multiple high schools. We have conducted evaluations for federal, state, and municipal clients focused on programs and initiatives designed to strengthen career pathway outcomes for K–12 students.
- Evaluation of San Diego County Office of Education’s California Career Pathway’s Trust Grant. This two-year evaluation examines student and system-level outcomes of a career pathways program being implemented at 17 school districts and eight community colleges in San Diego County.
- Evaluation of Youth Career Connect. SPR is collaborating with Mathematica on this five-year evaluation and examining the efforts of 24 Youth CareerConnect (YCC) partnerships. The evaluation includes 79 school districts and 134 high schools that are seeking to strengthen create industry-relevant educational pathways for youth.
- Study of Student Centered Learning for Stanford Center for Opportunity, Policy and Education (SCOPE). SPR partnered with the Stanford Center for Opportunity, Policy, and Education (SCOPE) on a study of career-technical education and linked-learning in California.
Other Key Project
- Evaluation of the Los Angeles Reconnections Career Academy (LARCA)
In addition to SPR’s broad expertise on workforce development systems and strategies generally, we are also deeply committed to exploring what types of programs and services work for populations which struggle to find and retain stable employment. Some of our key populations of focus in this area are youth, justice-involved individuals, older workers, Native Americans, farmworkers and low-income individuals.
Youth workforce development programming is a key area of expertise for SPR. We have studied programs at the federal, state and local levels to (re)connect opportunity youth with the educational opportunities, vocational training, mentoring and work experience that can help them succeed in their communities and careers.
- Impact Evaluation of YouthBuild. This seven-year, national project to test the effects of the YouthBuild program on disadvantaged youths’ educational attainment, employment and earnings, and other outcomes includes a large-scale random assignment study to measure impacts, a process study to understand program implementation and participants, a cost-effectiveness study, and survey of participants who will be tracked for up to four years after random assignment. (link)
- Evaluation of the YouthBuild Youth Offender Grants. This evaluation examined the outcomes of 36 YouthBuild programs that were implementing US DOL’s Youth Offender grants. Evaluation activities included three rounds of site visits to grantees, case studies with 80 youth, and an analysis of MIS data to examine what factors are associated with variations in program and youth outcomes.
Criminal Justice System-Involved Individuals
Criminal activity negatively impacts the lives of millions of Americans each year. Finding effective ways to reduce it, and to support those individuals most directly affected by it, remains an important policy question for policymakers and practitioners. SPR maintains an extensive portfolio of evaluations and technical assistance projects that examine and support programs designed to reduce the significant social and economic costs of crime and involvement in the criminal justice system.
- The Reintegration of Ex-Offenders (RExO) Program. Was a national program providing workforce, mentoring and supportive services to re-entering offers. SPR studied the impacts of the program on employment and recidivism outcomes through a random assignment study of 4,800 individuals at 24 grantees, drawing on administrative data and survey findings over three years.
- The Second Chance Act Adult Demonstration Program. Provided a litany of evidence-based services, including those focused on employment and behavior, to the currently and formerly incarcerated. SPR’s random assignment impact study of this program, funding by the U.S. Department of Justice, is examining the impact the program has on employment and recidivism over a 30 month period.
- The Evaluation of Grants Serving Youth Offenders. Uses experimental methods to estimate the impact of programs under a variety of funding streams from the U.S. Department of Labor. SPR’s evaluation includes identifying viable programs to include in the evaluation, recruiting and training those sites, conducting random assignment, and conducting an impact analysis and implementation study.
Other Key Projects
- Evaluation of the Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release (LEAP)
- Evaluation of the Los Angeles Regional Initiative for Social Enterprise (LA:RISE)
- Evaluation of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program
- Impact Evaluation of YouthBuild
- Evaluation of School District-Based Strategies for Reducing Youth Involvement in Gangs and Violent Crime
SPR has completed several groundbreaking studies that have examined the distinct workforce service needs of older workers. Older workers are not a homogeneous group: they include both dislocated workers and other long-term unemployed workers with substantial work experience, as well as low-income seniors who face serious barriers to employment as a result of limited basic skills, disabilities, or a lack of a stable work history. SPR’s prior work in this field has helped to document the diversity of older workers and has identified basic challenges encountered by older workers and promising practices that have emerged from workforce development programs targeting services to older Americans. SPR’s evaluations of workforce development programs serving older workers include process studies, outcome studies, and net-impact studies.
- The Process and Outcome Study of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). In this national study for the U.S. Department of Labor SPR used interviews with national SCSEP grantees, site visits to 29 local program operators, and analysis of participant data from the SPARQ participant-level data system and from national customer satisfaction surveys to explore the organizational factors and service features that influence SCSEP program success.
- The Evaluation of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Aging Worker Initiative. SPR’s multi-year implementation and outcome evaluation reviewed ten demonstration projects funded by the U.S. Department of Labor with the goal of improving the capacity of regional education and workforce training systems to serve workers 55 years of age and older. Interim Report and Final Report.
- AARP Foundation’s Women’s Economic Stability Initiative (WESI) Evaluation. SPR is currently conducting a multi-year implementation and quasi-experimental net-impact evaluation of AARP’s Women’s Economic Stability Initiative (WESI), which was selected for the receipt of a Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grant by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The evaluation tests the efficacy of the AARP WESI program model as implemented at six community colleges.
Other Key Projects
- Review of AARP Foundation’s SCSEP Program
- Evaluation of the National Council on Aging’s Use of Technology Tools in Connection with Its Economic Security Initiative
Indians and Native Americans
The Department of Labor’s Indian and Native American Program (INAP) provides employment and training services to tribes, tribal organizations, Alaska Native entities, Indian controlled organizations and Native Hawaiian organizations.
- Indian and Native American Program Training and Technical Assistance Project. The Indian and Native American Program (INAP) exists to provide high-quality job training services to native communities in ways that are both competitive and culturally relevant. SPR provides assistance to the program through web technology, capacity building for program operations, and training on performance measures and management information systems. See our online community of practice.
- Workforce System Data Analysis. For over twenty years, SPR has overseen the analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Division of Indian and Native American Programs, including processing, conducting data quality reviews, and creating summary reports, as well as providing technical assistance on data review for Indian and Native American Programs grantees.
- Administrative Data Research and Analysis (ADRA) Project. To provide the U.S. Department of Labor with insight into how its programs serve particular subgroups of the labor market, SPR conducted this analysis of administrative data on participants in the public workforce investment system to compare patterns of participation, services received, and outcomes attained across various special populations, including Indians and Native Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, Latinos, and farmworkers.
Farmworkers often face uncertain job stability due to the seasonal nature of their work. The U.S. Department of Labor provides funding to community-based organizations and public agencies to help migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their dependents attain greater economic stability. Farmworkers can also receive training and employment services through the nationwide network of American Job Centers.
- NFJP Data Review and TA: Workforce System Data Analysis. For over twenty years, as part of Workforce System Data Analysis project, SPR has overseen the analysis of this data for the National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) including processing, conducting data quality reviews, and creating summary reports for nearly all of ETA’s major workforce programs.
- Workforce System Strategies for Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers To support the Department of Labor’s online communities of practice for programs serving farmworkers, SPR conducts scholarly and field research to identify evidence-based and innovative practices connecting migrant and seasonal farmworkers with employment and disseminate this information to practitioners in the field.
Project Snapshot by Client Type
Institutional Analysis of American Job Centers. ExpandSPR is conducting this study to analyze the structure and operations of AJCs through multi-day site visits to AJCs, phone interviews with representatives of state workforce development agencies, surveying AJC partners, and collecting administrative data.
Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Implementation Study. ExpandThe WIOA Implementation Study will examine the variation in the approaches states take to implement key WIOA provisions, assess early implementation progress, and identify needs for further guidance or technical assistance. To accomplish this, the study includes (1) a structured review of states’ approved WIOA plans, (2) early interviews with key informants, (3) a survey of state-level workforce administrators in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, (4) in-depth site visits to 18 states and 36 local areas, and (5) an analysis of participant-level administrative data.
Career Pathways Initiative: Technical Assistance and Training. ExpandThe U.S. Department of Labor’s Career Pathways Initiative aimed to strengthen career pathway programs for low-skilled and dislocated workers. SPR provided technical assistance to facilitate the design and development of several career pathways in eleven states and two tribal communities to reach a broader audience of states interested in developing career pathways. SPR also developed a set of tools and instructions collected within the Career Pathways Toolkit: Six Key Elements for Success to provide guidance and practices for states and local areas looking to increase credential attainment and careers in high growth industries for working learners and low-skilled or dislocated workers. At the outset of the project, SPR worked with federal staff from the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education, and its partners at Jobs for the Future to develop a conceptual framework to guide this work within state and local communities – The Six Key Elements Framework. This framework was the basis for the complementary toolset that SPR developed for grantees participating in the initiative. The tools and lessons learned from the project proved so valuable to grantees that SPR worked with staff members from the U.S. Department of Labor to develop a toolkit to provide resources to guide other communities with their development of career pathways systems.
Workforce Investment Act: Gold Standard Evaluation. ExpandThis project uses a random assignment design to estimate the impact of WIA Adult and Dislocated Worker Program services on participants’ employment, earnings, and other outcomes. Tasks include recruiting local workforce areas and training them on conducting random assignment, collecting administrative data, conducting an implementation study, and conducting qualitative and quantitative data analysis. Issue Brief
Reintegration of Ex-Offenders: Impact Evaluation. ExpandTo address high rates of recidivism among reentering offenders, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (USDOL) funded a national group of 24 faith and community-based organizations to provide workforce assistance, mentoring, and case management services. SPR, funded by US DOL, conducted a random assignment evaluation that examined the impacts the RExO program had on the employment and recidivism outcomes of the more than 4,600 study participants. The evaluation included a three-year impact study, an implementation study and a survey of participants. Final Report
Workforce Data Quality Initiative: Technical Assistance and Training. ExpandThe U.S. Department of Labor launched the Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) to support states in developing and improving longitudinal workforce databases. By promoting improvements in data quality and accessibility, the WDQI aims to assist states in developing data systems that provide full portraits of individual’s educational and workforce pathways. SPR is providing technical assistance to WDQI grantees to support them in achieving the goals of the initiative. This assistance includes annual grantee convenings, regular interactive webinars presenting content on topics of interest to grantees, such as sustainability planning, inviting subject matter experts to present on topics such as FERPA and data governance, and hosting peer exchanges featuring members of the WDQI grantee community. All webinars are archived and downloadable via the online WDQI community of practice that SPR also maintains.
- Putting Data to Work: A Guide to Building Longitudinal Data Systems
- The Power of Longitudinal Data Systems: Connecting Data Across Programs and Over Time
Integrated Intake and Effective Case Management: Technical Assistance and Training. ExpandSPR and its partner, Mathematica Policy Research, collected information and resources about effective case management for workforce program participants, and integrated intake and data capture for employment and training enrollees for the Integrated Intake and Effective Case Management (IIECM) technical assistance project. SPR conducted a literature review in order to identify resources available in the field, and coded them according to topical categories. This information was disseminated in an issue brief and shared in national webinars. Deliverables from the project included tools such as archives of webinars, peer-to-peer learning exchanges, and briefing papers.
- Integrating Intake Among Workforce Programs: Key Strategies
- Effective Case Management: Key Elements and Practices from the Field
Frontline Champions – Opening Doors for Everyone: Providing Strengths-Based Customer Service at One Stop Career Centers. ExpandThis technical assistance and training project sought to maximize ETA’s efforts to empower One-Stop Career Center frontline staff members in meeting the needs of underserved and low-income populations such as Indians and Native Americans, older workers, migrant and seasonal farmworkers, and persons with disabilities.
WEadership: Enhancing Workforce Leadership. ExpandThe goal of this project was to examine leadership in the workforce system — what leaders do, how they do it, and towards what ends. SPR facilitated group conversations with intergovernmental organizations, conducted in-depth individual interviews with workforce leaders (nominated by their peers) and their colleagues, engaged scholars, business leaders, and thought leaders in the leadership space. The project team conceptualized a new model of collaborative leadership called, “Weadership,” documented a set of six Weadership practices, and identified existing and emerging policy areas that workforce leaders innovate from. SPR presented findings, models, and ideas ongoing in nearly 40 community and professional venues. The U.S. Department of Labor sponsored this project. EWL Guide
California Apprenticeship Initiative Technical Assistance and Evaluation. ExpandSPR is evaluating and providing technical assistance to 23 grantees that are developing registered apprenticeship programs and pre-apprenticeship programs. The formative evaluation is designed to inform the TA approach, document progress, and identify successes and challenges.
San Jose Silicon Valley WIOA Strategic Plans. ExpandSPR assisted in the preparation of the San Jose Silicon Valley Workforce Development Board’s 2017 Local WIOA Strategic Plan and the Bay-Peninsula Regional Planning Unit’s WIOA Regional Plan. This included facilitating stakeholder engagement, drafting comprehensive and coordinated plans for public comment, facilitating the public comment response processes, and finalizing the package for submission to the California Workforce Development Board.
Accelerated Training for Illinois Manufacturing Workforce Innovation Fund Grant: Evaluation. ExpandThe State of Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity received a U.S. Department of Labor Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF) grant for its Accelerated Training for Illinois Manufacturing (ATIM) initiative. This initiative aims to develop regional partnerships and training programs for employment and career advancement in machine production, welding, machine maintenance, and logistics operations. SPR and its partner, Program and Policy Insight LLC is conducting an evaluation of the ATIM program that includes an implementation study to explore variations and challenges in program delivery, a stakeholder survey and social network analysis to examine the development and strength of regional partnerships, and a random assignment impact study to analyze the program’s effects on Workforce Investment Act-eligible adults and dislocated workers. Implementation Report and Impact Report
Los Angeles Reconnections Career Academy, Workforce Innovation Fund Grant: Evaluation. ExpandThe City of Los Angeles’ Economic and Workforce Development Department and Workforce Investment Board received a U.S. Department of Labor Workforce Innovation Fund grant to develop the Los Angeles Reconnections Career Academy (LARCA), a career pathways program that targeted out-of-school youth and provided them with secondary and post-secondary education; work readiness, supportive, and training services; and employment and placement services. SPR’s evaluation of LARCA uses a random assignment design to analyze the impacts of the program, and also includes an implementation study and a cost-effectiveness analysis. Implementation Study Report.
Los Angeles Regional Initiatives for Social Enterprise, Workforce Innovation Fund grant: Evaluation. ExpandThe City of Los Angeles’ Economic and Workforce Development Department received a U.S. Department of Labor Workforce Innovation Fund grant to develop the Los Angeles Regional Initiative for Social Enterprise (LA:RISE) program, which provides workforce services for hard-to-employ populations including disconnected youth, the formerly incarcerated, and the homeless. Program participants receive training, supportive services and transitional jobs through Employment Social Enterprises (ESEs), private organizations that coordinate service delivery and employment placement services with the public workforce system. Participants also have access to additional supportive services upon employment and “bridge” jobs at employers developed to work with the target population. SPR’s evaluation of LA:RISE uses a random assignment design to analyze the impacts of the program, and also includes an implementation study and a cost-effectiveness analysis.
San Diego County Office of Education, California Career Pathways Trust Grant: Evaluation. ExpandThe San Diego County Office Education received a California Career Pathways Trust grant to support career pathway programming county-wide through professional development for teachers and counselors, curriculum development and industry engagement. The project features career pathways in advanced manufacturing, clean energy, and information and communications technology. SPR’s two-year evaluation is examining student and system-level outcomes of a career pathways program being implemented at seventeen school districts and eight community colleges in San Diego County. Key outcomes of interest include changes in academic achievement and increased coordination between school districts, community colleges, and employers to strengthen career pathways systems. SPR is using a mixed-method design to address these questions, and collaborating with the San Diego County Office of Education to strengthen its school-site data collection efforts and to promote data quality.