Emphasizing Evidence: Strengthening Texas Grantmaking

What does investing in what works look like? In Texas, state workforce officials are demonstrating how evidence-based grantmaking can improve outcomes for young people looking for a pathway to a successful career.

On March 25, 2021, RFA Workforce Fellows from the Texas Workforce Commission issued a $1.5 million ($300,000 per grant award) grant notice seeking applicants to provide building and construction trades-related training to youth aged 16–24 who are neither enrolled in school nor participating in the labor market. The grants offer an opportunity for young people hit particularly hard by COVID-19 to gain skill and experience, and improve the overall success of Texas’ workforce.

To promote the use of evidence-based strategies, this grant competition will provide up to 10 bonus points (out of 110) to grant applicants based on the level of causal evidence supporting their application, and up to 15% of each grant ($45,000) will be paid out for achievement of specified outcomes, including participation completion, receipt of industry-based certification, and employment.

Since the fall of 2019, Results for America (RFA) Fellows from the Texas Workforce Commission, along with the Texas Governor’s Office, the Texas Workforce Investment Council, and the Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area (Austin) have participated in RFA’s State and Local Workforce Fellowship with seven state teams, including California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. Throughout the fellowship, teams strive to make the public workforce system more data-driven and evidence-based in part by implementing recommendations from our Moneyball for Workforce Development report.

The Texas RFA Fellows team has now carried out 4 of these recommendations:

  1. Defining evidence of effectiveness for the Texas Workforce Commission for the first time in the agency’s history;
  2. Providing evidence-based preference points based on this new evidence framework in a grant award;
  3. Linking grant funds to outcomes through performance-payments in this same grant award; and
  4. Contracting for a rigorous, independent evaluation of the grant program piloting this lo new evidence framework.

The Texas Workforce Investment Council continues to champion evidence-based grantmaking across the agency and state through learning opportunities and similar grant applications. The Texas RFA Fellows team’s definition and prioritization of both evidence and outcomes will strengthen Texas’ public workforce system and improve the lives of the people they serve.

We are encouraged that more state leaders across the country are embracing this invest-in-what-works approach. For more information on evidence- and outcomes-based workforce strategies, visit RFA’s Workforce Policy page.

Working with decision-makers at all levels of government to harness the power of evidence and data to solve the world’s greatest challenges.