This study took place in Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) located in Des Moines, Iowa. The intervention delivered basic skills remediation, proactive advising, and other supports to community college students who were denied access to the Workforce Training Academy. Components of the program were basic skills remediation, advising, non-academic supports (free tuition; transportation supports), and employment assistance.
Coursework included occupational training courses designed to improve participants' job search, application, and retention skills (once hired).
Participants are described as low-income and low-skilled adults with an interest in occupational training. The majority of participants were 25-years or older (not of traditional college age) with the largest proportion older than 35. About two-thirds were female. About half of participants identified as Black, Non-Hispanic, and one-third were White,Non Hispanic. More than half of the sample had an annual household income of less than $15,000. About two-thirds received SNAP or WIC benefits, and about two-thirds reported experiencing financial hardship in the past year. The majority of participants had a high school diploma or less. Almost two-thirds of participants were not working at the time of study enrollment, but the majority expected to work some hours in the following months.
Treatment group had access to training (occupational certificate courses at lower skill level and no requirement to retake prerequisite assessments; self-paced online basic skills remediation courses); supports (proactive advising from achievement coach; instructional supports; free tuition for basic skills remediation courses; transportation supports; tools workshop including goal setting and self-efficacy skills instruction); and employment assistance (career planning session after enrollment in WTA Connect). Control group had access co comparable services within the same community college.
- Basic skills curriculum: Two 2 and 1/2-hour weekday evening sessions
- Occupational Training: timing and number of sessions depended upon they occupation chosen and ranged from 60 to 235 hours (2.5 weeks to 16 weeks).
- Advising was ongoing throughout enrollment.
- Financial assistance was provided throughout enrollment including free tuition and transportation assistance.
- Tools workshop: delivered in one to three 3-hour sessions and then reduced to a single session.
- Employment assistance: delivered via a course called the Career Readiness Lab and met for 24 hours of class time; career planning session
Comparison group had access to assessment (academic assessment and non-academic barriers assessment); training (enrollment in WTA, KeyTrain, or GED/HiSET test preparation); Supports (general college advising, general support services provided by community college partners; free tuition for occupational training); employment assistance (Career Readiness Lab; one-to-one employment coaching after occupational training).
Support for implementation
WTA Connect provided all components of the program (including supportive services, tuition for the basic skills courses and occupational training, and class materials such as books) free to participants. The program also provided transportation supports in the form of bus passes or gas cards. It also offered benefits screening to assess each participant’s eligibility for public benefits. Participants were also offered a Tools workshop on goal-setting and self-efficacy skills.
In October 2012, program staff added the non-academic barriers assessment to the application process. (This was administered prior to random assignment, at the same time as the BIF and SAQ). Staff had reported at this time that more than 25 percent of intervention group members were unresponsive to staff outreach. The program staff and research team determined that some students had barriers preventing them from participating, such as work requirements, unmet childcare needs, and DMACC account holds. Program staff indicated that use of the assessment did not often result in screening out applicants, but staff would sometimes advise applicants to work on a barrier and reapply for the program. In 2014, staff also implemented a follow-up phone call to the assessment screening, to better understand applicants' barriers.
Implementation was funded through private grants and state and federal funds.