Report Shows Potential of On-Ramp Programs to Create Talent

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(image courtesy of Strada Education Network) (image courtesy of Strada Education Network)

A new report from a division of Indianapolis-based Strada Education Network suggests career "on-ramp" programs are showing success. "On-ramps to Good Jobs: Fueling Innovation for the Learning Ecosystem" highlights nine programs and suggests a majority of participants found "good jobs" in a field related to their training. However, only 100,000 people throughout the country are taking part in such programs.

Andrew Hanson, senior research fellow at the Strada Institute for the Future of Work and co-author of the report, says there are 65 on-ramp programs in the U.S. that are defined by their target population of working class adults between the ages of 25 and 64 who are earning less than $25,000 annually. He says the programs serve as an intermediary that provide several functions, including sourcing and screening candidates for employers, skills development for workers, wraparound support services such as transportation, and employment and placement services.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Hanson said the report outlined benefits and challenges.

"The two things that stand out in terms of the outcomes of the programs (include) job placement rates. Every program has a job placement rate above 80 percent and some had job placement rates above 90 percent," said Hanson. "The second piece is that the earnings increases were sometimes two-to-four-fold. In many cases, we had folks who were working part-time and then were able to move to a full-time position that doubled or quadrupled their earnings."

Hanson said on-ramp programs, though, face several barriers to reaching more Americans. He says the major barrier is the design of the program.

"The economics of the program, they tend to rely heavily on public and philanthropic funding, which is not typically a sustainable funding source so they don't have a strong business case to grow the program beyond its current capacity based on those limited funding schemes," said Hanson. "Another major barrier is that the employer partners in many cases perceive participating within the on-ramp program and bringing on the employee as goodwill rather than good business. So, they typically are run through an employer's corporate social responsibility department rather than a typical HR department or traditional hiring mechanism."

He adds many of the on-ramp programs don't measure their return on investment well, which makes it difficult to sell the business case to employers. However, the report says the small number of participants in the programs creates a significant opportunity for investors, government and employers to help them grow.

“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," according to the report. "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.”

Hanson says, while none of the programs analyzed in the report are located in Indiana, there is an enormous opportunity to develop on-ramp programs that can benefit the state's economy. You can view the full report by clicking here.

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