By: AIF Staff
Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has long believed policymakers can and must play a role in helping Americans obtain the necessary education, skills, and training today so they are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. During his time in Congress, Ryan consistently fought for policies to expand economic opportunities and spur upward mobility so more Americans could reach their full potential in a dynamic 21st century economy.
Since launching the American Idea Foundation in 2019, he has continued working with community leaders and groups who are helping low-income individuals look for employment, develop new skills, or identify new careers in emerging sectors. As the Foundation has done so, it became apparent that many job training and vocational programs lack reliable evidence to quantify their impact.
In order to identify solutions which are not only effective but also replicable, policymakers and organizations need to commit to methodically building evidence in support of promising interventions. The need to expand the base of evidence in the workforce training space is one of the reasons why the American Idea Foundation decided to partner with Per Scholas in 2023.
Started in 1995, Per Scholas believes a thriving workforce starts with equitable access to education. To accomplish this goal, they created an evidence-based, professional development program that provides individuals, many of whom are already employed, with tuition-free technology training and skills for high-growth careers.
Participants of the Per Scholas program receive 15 weeks of occupational skills training in information technology, career readiness services (e.g., assistance in resume and interview preparation), and job development and placement services. Per Scholas, which is now operating in 20 cities across the United States, maintains strong relationships with local employers who hire these newly-trained workers into positions related to information technology services. The local employers then help shape the program’s training curriculum and other services, meaning Per Scholas is always learning and improving.
Per Scholas’ proliferation to cities around the country speaks to their effectiveness but their commitment to evidence and data is what truly sets the organization apart.
They have been the subject of two randomized controlled evaluations and the evidence from both was promising. An initial evaluation found that individuals who completed the Per Scholas program saw their annual earnings increase by 14% to 30%. And as their 2022 Annual Report showed, the program has an 8:1 economic return generated for every dollar invested.
Historically, 85% of Per Scholas learners nationwide graduate and 80% of graduates attain employment within one year of program completion. In 2022, more than 1,700 Per Scholas graduates secured jobs paying an average hourly wage of $23.50 an hour, collectively earning nearly 85$ million in first-year wages alone. In 2023, Per Scholas aims to build on that success by educating and training 4,500 individuals — 85% of whom will be people of color and 42% of whom are between ages 18-29.
As Per Scholas has grown, they have continued to let data and evidence inform their efforts and the results speak for themselves. With the help of the American Idea Foundation, Per Scholas will be able to further its randomized controlled trials and better measure their effectiveness at training individuals for careers in information technology.
Per Scholas is demonstrating that organizations can make a huge economic impact by equipping works with the skills and education necessary for the careers of tomorrow. They are helping individuals reach their version of the American Dream and doing so in a data-driven way, which is why the American Idea Foundation is so excited to help them continue growing in the year ahead.