Labor Market Intermediary Institutions

West and Southwest IAF organizations are pioneering workforce initiatives that bring working people out of poverty level jobs and into living wage careers. By building the political will for investment of public monies in long-term training, local organizations have successfully brought together employers, community college officials and community leaders to create long-term workforce development and education programs for actual jobs in high demand occupations.

Inspired by the success of the oldest of these labor market intermediaries, Project Quest in San Antonio, leaders established an additional nine projects in the West and Southwest US: Capital IDEA in Austin, Texas; Project ARRIBA in El Paso, Texas; VIDA in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas; JobPath in Tucson, Arizona; NOVA in Monroe, Louisiana, Skills-Quest in Dallas, Texas; Capital IDEA-Houston in Houston, Texas; Project IOWA; and Arizona Career Pathways in Phoenix. In 2014, DuPage County United launched its own labor market intermediary, Career Connect Metro West, just outside Chicago.

Collectively, these institutions have trained and placed over 16,000 adults in living wage jobs which pay, on average, $40,000 annually plus benefits and a career path. This number is expected to grow as the West / Southwest IAF expands into Phoenix, Des Moines, Albuquerque and DuPage.


WORKFORCE PROJECTS

Project Quest
Capital IDEA
Project ARRIBA
VIDA
JobPath
NOVA
Capital IDEA-Houston
Skill-Quest
Project IOWA
Arizona Career Pathways
Career Connect Metro West


PRESS

Job Training Can Change Lives.  See How San Antonio Does ItNew York Times (2019) [pdf]

San Antonio Program Moves Low-Skilled Workers Into Middle-ClassHouston Chronicle (2019) 

Texas Job Program Shows Unusually Strong, Lasting Gains, Study Finds, Austin American Statesman [pdf] (2017)

A Capital Idea: We Can’t Think of a More Valuable Initiative, Houston Chronicle (2014)

A Look at How Project ARRIBA Helps Individuals and the Community, KVIA (2014)

Job Training Program Adjusts Amid Funding Cuts, Texas Tribune (2013)

Who Can Fix the “Middle-Skills” Gap?, Harvard Business Review (2012) [pdf]

School for Success, The American Prospect (2012)

Project Quest a Worthwhile Investment for City, San Antonio Express News (2012)

Workforce Training of Parents Boost Children’s Aspirations
Austin American Statesman (2011)

Tucson Tech: $200,000 Grant to Help Train 50 Adults
Arizona Daily Star (2011)

VIDA Success Stories Multiply; Job-Training Organization Moves Forward
Brownsville Herald (2009)

Building a Career Where There Was Just a Dead End
Washington Post (2007)


INDEPENDENT STUDIES

Nine Year Gains: Project QUEST's Continuing ImpactEconomic Mobility Corporation (2019)

VIDA: Implementation and Early Impact Report, Pathways for Advancing Careers in Education (2018)

Escalating Gains: The Elements of Project QUEST's SuccessEconomic Mobility Corporation (2018)

Escalating Gains: Project QUEST’S Sectoral Strategy Pays Off, Economic Mobility Corporation (2017) 

Economic Impact of Project ARRIBA on El Paso, Texas
UT El Paso, Institute for Policy and Economic Development (2015)

Economic Impacts of the JobPath Program on Pima County
Applied Economics (2014)

Return on Investment from Capital IDEA: Research Brief, Full Report, 2014 Update
UT Austin, Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources (2011)

VIDA: Economic Impact Study
UT Pan American, Data & Information Systems Center (2010)

Project Quest: A Case Study of a Sectoral Employment Development Approach, Aspen Institute (2001) [pdf]

Capital IDEA: Generational Impact Study (2011)

Beyond Graduation: Promoting Post-Program Engagement & Advancement
Aspen Institute (2009); On the Road to Success video (2010)


ADDITIONAL MATERIALS

Further reading on workforce development strategies

IEF Labor Market Programs, a memo by MIT economist Paul Osterman (2002)  

Video about the establishment of Project Quest in San Antonio (1994)

Story about the establishment of Project Quest in San Antonio by COPS/Metro


LOCAL UPDATES


Leveraging $25,000 for long-term job training, Corridor Interfaith leaders from Living Word Lutheran and San Marcos Unitarian Universalism, along with Capital IDEA alumni, succeeded in persuading Hays County Commissioners to invest local dollars into Capital IDEA.  Once matched with state ACE funding, the investment will allow 7-10 Hays County students to train out of poverty and into middle-class careers. 

Leaders met with their Hays County representatives over several months to educate them about Capital IDEA and to advocate for the inclusion of funding in the 2020 budget.  At the final budget hearing at the commissioners' court, the request was quickly moved forward and approved!


[Excerpt]

Last week, the New York Times highlighted a workforce training program in San Antonio called Project QUEST that helps hundreds of people every year move out of poverty and into sustainable employment. A recent analysis of the program was particularly encouraging. Nine years after entering training, participants are still experiencing high rates of employment and earning over $5,000 more annually than a similar group that didn’t participate in the program. Such outcomes are rare in workforce development programs.

The Times article came out just as AEI’s Vocation, Career, and Work research team began discussions with Capital IDEA in Austin, Texas, an organization that uses a model similar to Project QUEST. Capital IDEA has been working with low-income families in Austin for more than 20 years to move workers from low-wage to middle-skill jobs. In 2018, program graduates earned an average starting wage of $22 per hour. A previous analysis of the program has found sustained wage gains at least four years after program completion.

[Photo Credit: RealClear Policy]

Note: Capital IDEA is a long-term workforce development program established by Austin Interfaith.  Project QUEST was established by COPS/Metro in San Antonio.

In Austin, a Public/Private Partnership for Workforce SuccessRealClear Policy 


[Excerpt]

The economic odds facing Avigail Rodriguez a few years ago couldn’t have been much worse. An undocumented immigrant and a single mother, she lived in a cramped apartment in a tough neighborhood in San Antonio and earned just $9 an hour working as a nurse’s assistant.

Today, Ms. Rodriguez, 26, owns her own home in a safer area, earns nearly three times as much as she did before and has secured legal residency. The key to her turnaround was a training program called Project Quest, whose own ability to beat the odds is no less striking than that of Ms. Rodriguez.Project Quest has succeeded where many similar retraining efforts have failed, taking workers lacking in skills and successfully positioning them for jobs where they can earn double or triple what they did previously.

“This really gives employers a chance to find workers they wouldn’t otherwise have considered,” said Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard University. “At the same time, it provides opportunities to a rather disadvantaged group of workers, both younger and older.”

....

Project Quest was born 27 years ago in a Hispanic neighborhood in San Antonio where poverty rates are above the citywide average. After the closing of a Levi Strauss factory there, community groups [i.e. COPS/Metro, see comment at right] created Project Quest as a way of preparing workers for better-paying, more highly skilled jobs that were less vulnerable but still in demand.

[Photo Credit: Joanna Kulesza, New York Times]

Job Training Can Save Lives. See How San Antonio Does It.New York Times [pdf]


Business columnist Chris Tomlinson of the Houston Chronicle argues that Project QUEST is the most effective workforce development program in the nation.  Economist Mark Elliot, CEO of the Economic Mobility Corp., had this to say:    

“To see earning differences this large and for this long is unprecedented in the workforce development field.”

In photo above, COPS/Metro leader Sr. Consuelo Tovar fights for local funding of Project QUEST.  [Photo Credit: Kin Man Hui, San Antonio Express-News]  In bottom photos, trainees learn to cradle a newborn and conduct PERRLA evaluations.  [Photo Credit: Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News]

San Antonio Program Moves Low-Skilled into Middle ClassHouston Chronicle [pdf]

Nine Year Gains: Project QUEST's Continuing ImpactEconomic Mobility Corporation [pdf]


Since 1992, IAF labor market intermediaries have put low-income workers into high-paying careers in health care, technology and trades. The Economic Mobility Corporation recently released a 14-year “gold standard” randomized control test of San Antonio’s Project QUEST, the flagship labor market intermediary for the IAF.   

Study authors assert that “Project QUEST has demonstrated the largest, sustained earnings impacts ever found in a rigorous evaluation of a workforce development program. These findings provide conclusive evidence that investing in the skills of low-income workers not only can make a difference, it can move families out of poverty into the middle class.”  

Inspired by the success of Project Quest in San Antonio, IAF leaders have established an additional nine projects in the West and Southwest US: Capital IDEA in Austin; Project ARRIBA in El Paso; VIDA in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas; JobPath in Tucson; NOVA in Northeast Louisiana, Skills-Quest in Dallas; Capital IDEA-Houston; Project IOWA and Arizona Career Pathways.  In 2014, DuPage County United launched its own labor market intermediary, Career Connect Metro West.

Collectively, these institutions have trained and placed tens of thousands of adults in living wage jobs which pay, on average, $40,000 annually plus benefits and a career path.  This number is expected to grow as the West / Southwest IAF expands this strategy further. 

In photos at right, trainees learn to cradle a newborn and conduct PERRLA evaluations at Project QUEST in San Antonio.  [Photo Credit: Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News]

Nine Year Gains: Project QUEST's Continuing ImpactEconomic Mobility Corporation (2019)

San Antonio Program Moves Low-Skilled into Middle ClassHouston Chronicle [pdf]

Not All Programs Fade: New Report on Project QUEST RCT Shows Sizable None-Year Earnings Gains for Low-Income WorkersStraight Talk on Evidence [pdf]

Solid Evidence for Career Pathways Out of PovertyCLASP [pdf


[Excerpt below]

Project QUEST, the nonprofit workforce development organization created more than a quarter-century ago by the COPS/Metro Alliance, has been awarded a $1 million grant that the organization says will allow it to serve more San Antonians with expanded job training programs.

The award comes from the Rockefeller Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as part of their Communities Thrive Challenge, which awarded $1 million each to 10 organizations across the nation, working to “help low-income and financially insecure people find and retain well-paid, meaningful work, achieve financial security or build economically vibrant neighborhoods.”

San Antonio’s Project QUEST wins national $1 million grantSan Antonio Express-News [pdf]


Almost ten years ago, Project QUEST agreed to participate in a randomized control trial in which half of a pool of 400+ qualified and equally motivated applicants were picked by a computer to participate in Project QUEST. The other half were turned away. They pursued other options.

After three years, Project QUEST graduates already earned more than those who were turned away. By Year 6, the difference in earnings not only persisted, but increased to over $5,000 per year.


When Jacob Mireles returned home from deployment in Afghanistan and Kuwait last year, he quickly applied to Project QUEST for Rackspace's Open Cloud Academy cyber security track in Information Technology. During the training he ran into financial issues and Project QUEST assisted with a portion of the mortgage and utilities. He went on to successfully complete the program and soon after graduation, was hired by IP Secure where he now works as a Security Control Assessor, testing risks attributable to software and hardware systems.


With Louisiana as the state with the third highest number of poor people, many of them working full-time, Northern & Central Louisiana Interfaith leaders are devising new ways to tackle poverty. Says Pastor Clayton Moore, "If you work, how is it that you're poor?"

NCLI leaders have launched Another Chance to Succeed (ACTS), modeling itself on Project QUEST in San Antonio and NOVA in Monroe, Louisiana. The goal is to train adults into higher wage jobs of at least $15 / hour. ACTS is targeting January 2017 as its start-up date.


One year after raising the minimum wage for employees of the City of San Antonio (from $11.47 to $13 per hour), COPS / Metro Alliance leaders are celebrating again after the City Council passed a budget that includes a second wage raise to $13.75 per hour. This follows an intense two-year campaign with over 1,000 leaders recently assembling with the Mayor and council representatives to remind them of their commitment to a living wage. When the Mayor made some noise about living wages being an 'outsider's' agenda, leader Maria Tijerina fired back with an editorial reminding her that COPS / Metro is a local organization with a robust constituency.

City Council additionally approved shifting funding for workforce development program Project QUEST out from human services into economic development with its own line in the budget. Funding increased to $2.2 million including $200 thousand to cover tuition for the Open Cloud Academy training developed in collaboration with Rackspace.


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