Ensure Everyone Has the Right to Earn a Living

Build a Bridge to Work

Create a network to encourage ongoing job training

Time-tested solutions show that the most responsive aid is driven by people or organizations that are intimately associated with the real needs of a community. Turning to nonprofits and employers instead of the government could increase the effectiveness and outcomes of job training opportunities. Workforce development programs and education institutions can work with employers to create a fast track to employment for their students.

By connecting government employment efforts to local nonprofits and employers, the focus of social services would shift to helping people get training for high-wage jobs. This shift would make nonprofits and employers the major drivers of assistance efforts rather than government, which is often disconnected from real-world labor market needs.

Solving the Problems

Significant gaps exist in the education and workforce development pipeline, particularly in relation to high-demand jobs. To streamline training opportunities for job seekers and prepare them to find work, employers must have a role in ensuring that the skills taught correspond to current workforce standards.

To address the disparity between educational programs and workforce demands, schools should more closely cooperate with employers to prepare students for a shifting labor market. Employers are intimately familiar with which skills are in demand and the direction of labor trends, making them particularly suited to be involved in the training process.

How to implement

State Legislature

  • Pass legislation and make administrative changes to remove barriers to employer-driven workforce development programs.
  • Pass legislation to require that the employment and wage outcomes of workforce development programs be fully transparent, and that funding be contingent upon employment and wage growth of graduates.


The Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME).

The FAME program is a tested example of employer-led training. Participating companies work with schools to provide apprenticeship opportunities that combine paid experience on the job with classroom instruction. Nearly 400 companies in 13 states belong to the network and it boasts significant employment and earnings outcomes. According to a report by Opportunity America, the median earnings of FAME graduates were nearly $98,000 five years after graduation, which is $45,000 a year more than non-FAME career and technical education graduates from the same colleges earned.1Tamar Jacoby and Ron Haskins, Kentucky Fame Fulfilling The Promise Of Apprenticeship (Opportunity America, Brookings Institution, 2020), https://opportunityamericaonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/KY-FAME-final-final.pdf.

One recent obstacle to such cooperation in Texas was a restriction requiring employer-led training programs to be within the service region of their community college partner. Although a higher education regional council could override this restriction, council membership is limited to the leaders of local higher education institutions and it only meet once a year. In an effort to expand student training opportunities, the Texas Public Policy Foundation advocated for employers to be able to request an off-campus workforce education proposal from any higher education institution, community college, or public technical college.2Erin Davis Valdez, “Building a Workforce for the Future of Texas,” Texas Public Policy Foundation, May 19, 2021, https://www.texaspolicy.com/building-a-workforce-for-the-future-of-texas/. This policy passed in the 87th legislative session in the form of HB 4361.3HB 4361, 87th Texas Legislature (2021), https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/billtext/pdf/HB04361F.pdf.

Collaboration between nonprofits, industry, local governments, and schools is a key ingredient for success. This collaboration, commonly referred to as wraparound services, is essential to ensure people going through workforce training have the support system to continue their education and find employment while not being derailed by major life events. Wraparound services can include childcare and financial counseling.

Nonprofit partners can focus on economically strong and viable sectors of the economy to transition low-income citizens from low-wage or part-time work to long-term careers.

How to implement

State Legislature

  • States should devolve employment and training programs to private organizations to achieve clear outcomes for beneficiaries, including employment and earnings.

Civil Society

  • Philanthropists and nonprofit organizations could create new accreditors that focus on specific sectors to create transparent accountability standards based on wage and other non-academic outcomes.


Project QUEST San Antonio, Texas.

“Project QUEST is a sectoral approach that provides comprehensive help for low-income individuals to earn post-secondary credentials and access well-paying jobs… In San Antonio, Project QUEST increased graduate earnings by $5,490, or 20 percent, nine years after program entry.”1David Bass and Erin Davis Valdez, Promising Approaches to Workforce Development in Texas (Texas Public Policy Foundation, 2020), 9, https://files.texaspolicy.com/uploads/2020/07/07161128/Bass-Valdez-Approaches-to-Workforce-Development.pdf.

Year Up National.

“Year Up focuses on linking disadvantaged ‘opportunity’ youth with middle-skills jobs in the IT sector… For one Year Up randomized control trial 2,544 randomly assigned young adults were placed in the treatment group (1,669) and control group (875). ‘Average quarterly earnings were $1,895 higher for the treatment group ($5,454) than for the control group ($3,559)—a 53 percent impact. Impacts diminished but remained large (about 40 percent) over the following year.’2Bass and Valdez, Promising Approaches, 9.

The Padua Program Fort Worth, TX.  

“The goal of the Padua Program is to increase work participation, self-sufficiency, and savings while decreasing debt and dependence on government transfer programs… The LEO [Lab for Economic Opportunity’s] LEO team’s RCT [randomized-control trial] included 427 participants who were enrolled into the study over the course of two years, from spring 2015 through fall 2016, and received services for about 17 months on average. The program increased employment by 25 percent and produced increases in self-reported health relative to a control group.”3Bass and Valdez, Promising Approaches, 9–10.

Whether adults are on the college or career-training track, they need opportunities for high quality post-secondary education. People who are pursuing a career trajectory should also be able to access college-based competency-based education (CBE). Whether pursuing a middle-skilled introductory job or learning new skills in the middle of their careers, these adults need effective and efficient training that sets them up for success.

The rise of CBE reflects the close relationship between career advancement and the demonstration of skills. Instead of relying on measurements related to instruction, CBE adopts a more robust, learner-centered approach. This adult educational method may include credit by examination, which allows learners to advance through a curriculum at the pace best suited to their capabilities.

How to implement

State Legislature

  • Pass legislation and make administrative changes to convert funding for basic adult education to a competency-based model.
  • Legislative and administrative action should increase access to competency-based education for adults, including through adult charter to help drop-outs gain both high school diplomas and the skills needed to support themselves and their families.


Texas Affordable Baccalaureate (TAB) Texas.

In 2011, Gov. Rick Perry asked the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to create a bachelor’s degree that would cost students less than $10,000. This resulted in the first Texas CBE degree program: the TAB program.

Associate Degree in Nursing and WGU’s Teachers College.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation commissioned a study on the outcomes of graduates of competency-based education programs. This study found that CBE programs can serve a vital role in providing educational opportunities for socio-economically challenged students, particularly for those pursuing registered nurse (RN) and teaching credentials.1Thomas K. Lindsay et al. Career and Financial Outcomes of Graduates of Competency-based Higher Education Programs (Texas Public Policy Foundation, 2018), 3, https://files.texaspolicy.com/uploads/2018/08/16104425/2017-RR-08-CompetencyBasedEducationPart-I-CEF-GoldmanLindsay-SM.pdf.

Currently, there is a complete lack of coordination between workforce services and human services. The “no wrong door” policy is a way to combine a work-first safety-net policy with government assistance to Americans who need it. When a person shows up in a human service office needing food stamps or Medicaid, no wrong door means they will be referred to job opportunities or training at the same time. Not only will they get the temporary assistance they need, they will also be linked to resources to help them no longer need the assistance. Likewise, if a single mom seeks unemployment insurance or job training, she can be connected to childcare assistance, food stamps or other programs she may qualify for to support her until she can establish herself in a well-paying job.

No wrong door means combining all the safety-net programs and workforce services so any office a person enters will have the full array of services available to them. It eliminates the goose chase to find assistance and duplication of effort for both the applicant and the government entities providing the services. It is better for the customer and more cost-effective for the governmental agencies.

Utah is the only state in the nation that has integrated human services with workforce services. Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas lack coordination of workforce services with human services.

How to implement

Integrate workforce services with human services

  • Pass legislation and make administrative changes to merge human services with workforce services. Every time a client walks into any state office handling any workforce or human service, county or welfare office for services, or visits the website for such services, information on how to improve employability and find jobs should be readily accessible.
  • Furthermore, the integration must adopt a work-first policy where applicants and potential recipients are actively encouraged to find work, unless there are circumstances where it is unnecessary or it would be inadvisable.
  • The legislative and administrative actions shall establish a “no wrong door” policy so that any administrative office can help with all programs, effectively providing multiple channels to the integrated system.


Workforce and Human Services Utah.

During the 1990s, Utah successfully merged human services with workforce services. The Utah Department of Workforce Services integrated programs so that recipients could access services through “one door, receiving one plan, and one caseworker.” Utah also integrated federal and state monies for these services.1Mason M. Bishop, Utah Department of Workforce Services: A System Integration Model (American Enterprise Institute, 2020), https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Utah-Department-of-Workforce-Services.pdf?x91208.