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Workforce strategies to improve post-secondary outcomes

Workforce strategies can improve post-secondary training outcomes by providing work-based learning experiences, intensive wraparound services, and career counseling.

Individuals with a post-secondary degree or credential tend to obtain higher-quality employment, earn higher wages, experience better health outcomes, and are less likely to be incarcerated than individuals without post-secondary training.

How does post-secondary education affect economic mobility?

A post-secondary degree or credential is the surest way to achieve upward economic mobility. 1

Without a college degree, a child born to a low-income family has a 45 percent chance of remaining in the bottom quintile of earnings as an adult. With a college degree, a child born to a family in the lowest quintile of income has an 84 percent chance of moving into a higher quintile as an adult.

Obtaining a post-secondary degree significantly increases an individual’s lifetime earnings. 2 3

In 2016, individuals with a high school degree aged 25-34 earned an average approximately $32,000 per year. Individuals with an associate’s degree earned an average of over $38,000, those with a bachelor’s degree or higher earned an average of nearly $60,000.

Parents with a post-secondary degree are able to access higher quality employment, which allows them to spend more time with and resources on their children. 4

On average, mothers with a college degree spend 4.5 more hours every week engaging with their children than mothers with only a high school diploma or less.

The return on investment in earning an associate’s, professional, or bachelor’s degree exceeds 15 percent. 5

Categories of successful interventions

  • Career advising programs: Programs at colleges and workforce training programs that help students navigate career choices, provide guidance on coursework, and facilitate connections to employers
  • Career and technical education: School-based programs that teach high school students job-ready skills for specific occupations. Some programs offer courses in a deliberate skill-building sequence, and many include work-based experiences, social supports, and job placement assistance
  • Post-secondary student guidance and support: College-based programs that provide mentoring, counseling, social support, or other services to improve student well-being

Evidence-based interventions

Intervention Type Category Evidence Level
Adult vocational training Strategy
  • Job placement services
  • Sector-based skills training
Proven (highest tier)
CUNY Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) Program
  • Accelerated remedial education programs
  • Mentoring, counseling, and case management
Proven (highest tier)
Career Academies Program
  • Career and technical education
Proven (highest tier)
Early college high school model Strategy
  • Dual enrollment/early college programs
Proven (highest tier)
GED/HSED certificate programs Strategy
  • Ged/hsed programs
Strong (second-highest tier)
Health career recruitment Strategy
  • Career advising programs
  • College access programs
  • Mentoring, counseling, and case management
Proven (highest tier)
One Million Degrees Program
  • Accelerated remedial education programs
  • Mentoring, counseling, and case management
Promising (Third-highest tier)
Project QUEST Program
  • Sector-based skills training
Promising (Third-highest tier)
Footnotes
  1. Greenstone, Looney, Patashnik, and Yu, Thirteen Economic Facts about Social Mobility and the Role of Education, Brookings 2013
    https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/THP_13EconFacts_FINAL.pdf
  2. Greenstone, Looney, Patashnik, and Yu, Ibid.
    https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/THP_13EconFacts_FINAL.pdf
  3. de Brey, Musu, et al, "Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2018," US Department of Education 2019
    https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2019/2019038.pdf
  4. Guryan, Hearst, and Kearney, Parental Education and Parental Time With Children, NBER 2008
    https://www.nber.org/papers/w13993
  5. Greenstone, Looney, Patashnik, and Yu, Ibid.
    https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/THP_13EconFacts_FINAL.pdf