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Field Notes

The Power Of Collective Data: Reflections On The Job Training Alliance Impact Study

Colette Stanzler
January 28, 2016

On Tuesday morning, MA Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Ron Walker and a number of State and City of Boston leaders presented the findings of a new study on the impact of job training programs: Job Training: Works, Pay, and Saves! The Job Training Alliance (JTA), with funding from Skillworks, brought in Root Cause to study the success of 12 job training and placement programs across nine organizations. The results are impressive, with implications for the Massachusetts economy, its workforce, and decision-making about program investment:

  • 76% of people who completed JTA job training and placement programs successfully find employment.
  • These people contribute five times more than before in federal and state income taxes.
  • They also receive 67% less—or $1.9 million —in public assistance.

As a citizen and taxpayer in Massachusetts, I’m impressed by the results Root Cause uncovered.  As Director of the Root Cause team working on this study, the analysis we conducted reaffirmed for me the critical role that data and analysis can play in understanding results and tracking the impact of a field working to address a specific social problem.

Although this study is focused on programs working to prepare un- or under-employed individuals for jobs with careers pathways, this approach to data and impact holds implications for nonprofits across the field, and for the foundations and governments who fund them:

  1. Collecting data is critical – You can only assess return on investment (ROI) if you have good data to analyze. The nine participating organizations had systems in place and a strong culture of data gathering. Identifying common outcomes that these programs should be collecting for internal review and to report to stakeholders enabled us to extrapolate the implications of multiple job training programs as a whole.
  2. Nonprofits can collaborate around data – These organizations work in the same field within Boston; however, as members of the Job Training Alliance, they agreed to share their data to be able to better advocate for the impact of their collective work and the need for sustained funding. This kind of openness may not always come naturally, but can be essential to further the field.
  3. Data can influence policy as a whole – Accurately collecting key data from your program, especially in tandem with other organizations, results in powerful documentation of programs that work. The data that you collect can then influence policy decisions and funding allocation, increasing the success of your program.  

Conducting a deep impact study like this one provides an organization the opportunity to analyze more programs, compare its results to those in a wider region, or explore more measurable outcomes, both quantitative and qualitative.

Congratulations to the JTA members on their willingness to share data which made Job Training: Works, Pay, and Saves! so compelling.  I am glad our work provided them with such a strong platform for advocacy—and for improving lives. I hope this study and approach to partnership will serve as a model for organizations in other fields to consider data as a tool for collaboration to further their own shared goals.

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