More than 32 million working-class Americans are at risk of being left behind in today’s job market, but a crop of promising training programs can help them make the transition to financially stable careers. A report released today, “On-ramps to Good Jobs; Fueling Innovation for the Learning Ecosystem of the Future” by Strada Institute for the Future of Work and Entangled Solutions finds that an emerging category of career “on-ramp” programs can boost skills, employability, and earnings for adults without a degree who earn less than $25,000 per year.
In the majority of the on-ramps examined, between 70 and 90 percent of participants found “good jobs” in a field related to their training. But only 100,000 Americans are currently served by such programs.
“A tight labor market and economic growth are masking the fact that millions of Americans are still struggling to find jobs and earn a living wage,” said Michelle Weise, chief innovation officer at Strada Institute for the Future of Work and senior vice president of workforce strategies for Strada Education Network. “The 32 million working-class Americans left out of the economic recovery are a massive reserve of untapped talent and potential. Our goal with this report is to shine a light on what’s working to ignite more investment in scaling on-ramps and impact more lives.”
While wage growth is accelerating nationwide, working-class adults without a college degree have been left behind with stagnating wages and massive job losses. Employer demand for postsecondary credentials remains strong, and working-class adults have few affordable and flexible options for skills development and training.
The report analyzes nine on-ramps (out of a market of 65 around the country), including: i.c.stars, JobTrain, JVS, LaunchCode, Per Scholas, Philadelphia Works, Samaschool, STRIVE International, and Techtonic. Their effectiveness is rooted in deep integration with the demands of employers, layering targeted technical competencies with “human+” skills like communication and problem solving, and the flexibility for working learners that balances continuing education with family demands. For example, a California on-ramp called “JobTrain” offers on-site services to help participants gain access to legal advice, affordable childcare, referrals, and government benefits.
“Our on-ramps analysis validates that there’s another customer of education: the employer,” said Kathy Qu, engagement manager at Entangled Solutions. “These programs have aligned capabilities to meet employer needs, while maintaining the primary focus of serving students.”
All of the programs included in the report target skill development in areas ranging from basic workplace competencies, such as professional dress, to technical skills for fields like IT and cybersecurity.
The unique approaches of these on-ramps programs are changing the opportunity outcomes for Americans who need better options to upskill and rise in today’s global economy. With so few individuals engaged in these programs, there is significant opportunity for like-minded investors, government and employers to advance these solutions to scale.
According to the report, “The research is clear: On-ramps are promising post-secondary learning pathways that are targeted, cost-effective and lead directly to good and better jobs. The challenge, however, is how to help scale these efforts and build better business cases for on-ramps? Some only reach 12 adult learners at a time, but we have millions more who need this important boost in skills. Employers, impact investors, funders, and entrepreneurs as well as policymakers and learning providers all need to take these working models and improve upon them to close the systemic skills gaps for our most vulnerable workers.”
About Strada Institute for the Future of Work
Strada Institute for the Future of Work is dedicated to advancing our understanding of the future of learning and work, so that we may begin to build the learning ecosystem of the future. The Strada Institute is a part of Strada Education NetworkSM.Visitwww.stradaeducation.org/institute for more details.
Entangled Solutions is an innovation and strategy consultancy for the education and talent ecosystem. Entangled is organized specifically to help organizations future-proof, innovate, and grow. We partner with universities, foundations, nonprofits, and companies to develop, execute on, and scale innovative strategies and tactics. Visit https://www.entangled.solutions/ for more details.
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