Sector-Based Training Programs

An Approach to Achieving Equitable Labor-Market Outcomes and Upward Mobility

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In today’s job market, adequate skills training is needed to compete for desirable jobs. Without that training, many individuals, particularly those from marginalized commu­nities, can get stuck in a “low pay, no pay” cycle—that is, they frequently move between low-paid work and unemployment.

Research has shown that sector-based training programs—which train people for high-quality jobs that align with the labor force needs of employers in tar­geted industry sectors—can raise individuals’ employment rates and earnings. But sector-based training pro­grams are small and expanding them to a level that meets the economic need of workers has been challenging.

To help sector-based training providers expand and strengthen their programs and, ultimately, participants’ performance, in February 2023 MDRC launched the Economic Mobility Lab (The Lab). The Lab is a technical assistance initiative that supports sector-based training providers by testing and identifying solutions to their program­s’ challenges (such as low enrollment and completion rates or low levels of job placement). As a starting point, an MDRC team interviewed stakeholders in the workforce development field—including funders, academics, policymakers, and individuals from advocacy agencies—to gain their perspectives on what factors can restrict providers’ stronger performance and workers’ upward mobility. The team also wanted to gain broader insight into the challenges that sector-based train­ing providers and workers face and opportunities to collaborate with providers to apply evidence, innovate, and expand effective practices. This brief presents the results of those interviews, as well as lessons learned from earlier studies of sector-based training programs. 

Document Details

Publication Type
February 2024
West, Keri and Frieda Molina. 2024. “Sector-Based Training Programs.” New York: MDRC.