Moving Evidence Into Action: Building and Using Evidence in the Workforce Development System

By Celeste Richie

With the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) expiring in September 2020, Results for America recently released Moneyball for Workforce Development with detailed recommendations for ways to leverage WIOA to improve the use of evidence in the public workforce system and achieve better results for the system’s participants.

I recently had the privilege to discuss RFA’s new paper as well as the promising evaluation findings from the WorkAdvance study and the impressive strides that the state of Pennsylvania is making in building a more evidence-based and equitable public workforce system with Frieda Molina, Deputy Director for the Low-Wage Workers and Communities Policy Area at MDRC, and Allison Jones, Deputy Secretary of Policy and Planning in the Office of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. Both of these initiatives are featured in the report, and we wanted to hear more about what it takes to build and use evidence to improve outcomes in workforce development.

Watch our full conversation here.

The recommendations in RFA’s Moneyball for Workforce report include:

In thinking about evidence building in workforce development, Molina emphasized that “we need to invest in a culture of continual improvement…Evaluation can help practitioners understand areas where they can continue to improve.” Looking across the sites in the WorkAdvance study, outcomes were not evenly distributed. A few programs like Per Scholas out-performed others, suggesting we need to look across different programs to learn what works. We also need to look for replication of results, as we saw in the WorkAdvance study.

In Pennsylvania, the state has “been making progress in developing a more evidence-based and data-driven equitable workforce system,” Jones described. Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Board (PA WDB) voted to adopt evidence of effectiveness definitions for Pennsylvania’s public workforce system. “I think the shared understanding of the levels of evidence will help us ensure the whole system is moving in the same direction,” Jones explained.

Thinking through how to leverage both these definitions and evaluation results like the WorkAdvance findings, Jones hopes that “this work ultimately will help us better allocate workforce development resources and also ensure that we are investing in programs and strategies that demonstrate effective outcomes for our customers.” Molina added that funders should be thinking the same way, emphasizing that “you get what you measure. Funders need to measure and invest in long-term outcomes…If we want to see economic mobility, we need to think about funding . . . beyond two years of follow up.”

Jones summed up what’s at the core of evidence-based workforce efforts, noting “everyday we are investing in workforce development, and we want to make sure we are prioritizing opportunities that will ultimately support Pennsylvania workers and families in the long run.”

To learn more about the recommendations in RFA’s Moneyball For Workforce Development report or share your feedback, contact Celeste Richie, celeste@results4america.org.

Celeste Richie is the Vice President for Workforce Development at Results for America.

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