ROI and Beyond: Establishing a Framework for Improving Workforce SystemsWhat is the path to measuring ROI for workforce programs?
With the recent spike in unemployment and economic precarity, we are reminded of lessons learned from prior economic hardships to support job seekers. During the Great Recession, families in tight labor markets were in immediate need of support services and paths for economic opportunity became steeper for people with life barriers such as prior incarceration and foster care. Faced with limited resources and high need, government, philanthropy, and employers found themselves asking: Which initiatives lead to employment in my community? What are the social and economic outcomes of the most effective programs? How can we braid or pool funding for those programs?
In light of these questions, stakeholders have been grappling with how to measure, understand and qualify program impact in subsequent years. Third Sector and BrightHive, in partnership with the Data Advisory Council (DAC), recently published a framework to assess education and workforce programs for job seekers. Equitable Return on Investment (ROI): Building an ROI Framework for Education & Workforce Programs standardizes how governments, service providers, philanthropists and social impact investors can assess the impact of training programs with a focus on employment placement, wage growth, and equity outcomes. The report’s recommendations and insight are the product of BrightHive’s technical expertise and Third Sector’s experience advising state and county governments and workforce boards.
The Outcomes Continuum framework is unique for a few reasons. The framework embeds ROI Metrics into a spectrum of interim performance indicators that can be used by all stakeholders in education and workforce systems. It also creates a clear use case for integrating government data that is typically siloed across education, workforce, and other agencies. The report identifies how data from service providers or “trainers” can be integrated with government’s data to ensure programs are equitably designed for and representative of those they are seeking to support. Lastly, a focus on outcomes measurement, which assesses sustained life changes after a learner completes a program,encourages continuous program improvement well beyond referrals and enrollment.
The Outcomes Continuum ensures that measurement of “progress and results” leads to actionable insights for stakeholders, including:
- Understanding real-time program and participant performance
- Identifying needed changes in programming
- Increasing accountability that extends beyond compliance reporting
- Leveraging human-centered design to understand critical barriers and/or circumstances that threaten stable employability
- Improving coordination and collaboration among community partners
The Outcomes Continuum also increases transparency for job seekers and future employers. Both stakeholders can assess a program based on a track record (e.g., access to services, credentialing or employment results). This includes gaining access to insights that are typically only available to individual government agencies. The State of Colorado, for example, collaborated with partners of the DAC to start developing a holistic online platform for learners and jobseekers. The result, MyColoradoJourney, is one of many examples of government reorienting its education and workforce systems towards long-term outcomes in a human-centric, data-driven way.
While this report is just the beginning, Third Sector, BrightHive, and others involved in the Data Advisory Council are excited about future collaborations and recognize the critical role these efforts will play as our country navigates the current and forthcoming economic disruption. During economic slowdowns, access to programs and support services is critical. Ensuring these services are effective, representative of communities, and lead to stable employment and education outcomes for program participants will shape our country’s economic landscape for years to come.