This report summarizes the implementation and evaluation of the Accelerating Connections to Employment (ACE) program. The ACE program model is designed to improve employment and employment-related outcomes for low-skilled workers through formal partnerships between Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) and community colleges. Implemented at nine sites across four states (Maryland, Texas, Connecticut and Georgia) from 2012 to 2015, ACE provided training, support services, job readiness and job placement support to 1,258 participants. The ACE program is defined by five core activities: 1) a program planning stage, consisting of a program selection process informed by local labor market information, 2) intake and eligibility testing, consisting of program orientation and suitability assessments, 3) training, incorporating elements of the I-BEST model to provide integrated basic and vocational skills instruction, 4) support services, including academic and transportation support, and 5) transition and tracking, including job readiness and placement services. The final report describes these components and their implementation in detail, highlighting challenges encountered and lessons learned. Quantitative results from the randomized controlled trial (RCT) evaluation of ACE are presented, as well as the results of a cost study describing the costs associated with implementing the ACE model.
The research draws on quantitative data collected from state unemployment insurance (UI) records, a one-year and two-year multi-modal follow-up survey and intake and tracking data collected by ACE staff. Additional qualitative information, used to inform the implementation study, are drawn from annual site visit interviews, focus groups and classroom observations, as well as open-ended survey questions included in each of the follow-up surveys.
The quantitative results of the RCT evaluation show that ACE has a significant positive impact on employment rates and earnings for ACE participants at all but one of the ACE sites, as well as positive and significant impacts on credential attainment. The implementation study and fidelity assessment indicate that each of the ACE sites followed the program model, although the implementation of the ACE model evolved as sites identified new staffing and service needs. Specifically, sites adapted to unanticipated challenges by adding new staff positions and adapting program procedures to better serve participants. (Author abstract)