The economic growth that followed the 2008 recession has increased the demand for qualified workers in health care, advanced manufacturing, information technology, and other growing industries. While many employers are finding it difficult to fill key positions, workers without the right skills face a shrinking pool of rewarding job opportunities.
The Office of Workforce Development (OWD) in New Orleans, Louisiana, with a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, implemented Career Pathways, an innovative program designed to increase the local talent pool and help lower-skilled, unemployed, and underemployed individuals train for work in growing fields. RAND Corporation researchers evaluated the program to find out whether it was succeeding in its mission: helping trainees learn industry-valued skills and find related jobs. The research team also examined the broader costs and benefits of the program in relation to the city of New Orleans.
The team found that the New Orleans Career Pathways program produced meaningful positive results in several areas. These included individuals' wage growth, job satisfaction, and the government's and society's return on investment. There were also areas that had no significant change, such as arrest rates and the duration of individuals' employment.
This brief summarizes the main study findings as well as related recommendations to help workforce development boards, employers, training organizations, and other stakeholders striving to create or improve workforce development programs in their region.