WWC review of this study

Evaluation of Travis County investments in workforce development: 2020 update

Juniper, C., Rodriguez, P., & Prince, H. (2020). The University of Texas at Austin, Ray Marshall Center.

  • Quasi-Experimental Design
    , grade

Reviewed: March 2022

At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards with reservations
Short-Term Employment outcomes—Indeterminate effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement


Project QUEST vs. Business as usual

1 Year

Full sample;
1,212 students




Show Supplemental Findings


Project QUEST vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Full sample;
1,156 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Female: 70%
    Male: 30%

  • Urban
    • B
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  • Race
    Other or unknown
  • Ethnicity
    Not Hispanic or Latino    


This is a study of Capital IDEA, which is a sectoral workforce development program implemented in Travis County, Texas, and is based on the Project QUEST model. Participants attend training at LifeWorks workforce development sites, including Austin Community College's (ACC) Highland Campus (95% of students) and Temple College (5% of students).

Study sample

Eligible applicants had to be at least 18 years old, have a High School Equivalency Certification (HSEC) or high school diploma, lack an associate's or higher degree, meet reading and math skills requirements, and report a household income at or below 200% of the federal poverty threshold. Of the Capital IDEA participants in the study, 56% were White, 24% were Black, and 5% were Asian. Forty-one percent of the sample were Hispanic, and 70% were female. Nearly half (49%) had attended some college, and over one-quarter (27%) were receiving public benefits. The program recruited low-wage workers and encouraged them to continue working part-time throughout the program. No information was provided on the demographic characteristics of the comparison group.

Intervention Group

Capital IDEA is a sectoral workforce development program that offers non-traditional students with the opportunity to pursue training in high-wage, high-demand occupations in health care, information technology, and other leading industries such as professional trades or applied technologies. The program coordinates and collaborates with Austin-area community colleges and employers to help prepare participants for jobs with good wages and benefits. Applicants who are unlikely to pass a college admissions assessment can enroll in Capital IDEA's College Prep Academy, an intensive 6.5 hour per day, five-day a week, 12-week program designed to build math, reading, writing, and study skills. Most participants required only one semester of the College Prep Academy (10% of participants received an additional semester of support). The program assigns a career navigator to each student. Career navigators meet students at the beginning of each semester, then communicate and work with students throughout the semester. Group support sessions are also offered, with topics for these sessions driven by student needs and their ability to navigate the college experience. The career navigators also communicate over telephone, text message, email, and video conferencing to help guide students through the higher education system. The program encourages students to work part-time throughout the program. The program covers tuition, fees, books, uniforms, tools, training software, and other course-specific required items. In addition, Capital IDEA provides support with basic office supplies, backpacks, and eye examinations and eyeglasses, and offers emergency financial assistance for students who need help with utility bills, rent, and mortgage payments, and childcare. There is also free Cap Metro public transportation for students enrolled at ACC.

Comparison Group

Comparison group members received employment assistance services available to the community through the state’s WorkInTexas (WIT) program and local Workforce Investment Act-funded Workforce Solutions CareerCenters. Data for the comparison group were drawn from The Workforce Information Systems of Texas (TWIST) records.

Support for implementation

No additional implementation details are provided in the study.


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