Massachusetts Pathways to Economic Advancement

The Problem

A significant portion of the adult population in the Greater Boston region, comprised in part by immigrants and refugees, faces challenges to employment. For instance, limited English speakers experience both higher rates of unemployment and lower earnings (about $24,000 less annually in Massachusetts) than fluent English speakers with similar credentials. While Massachusetts has attempted to address adult learning needs in the past, demand for services remains high.

The Basics

Location: Greater Boston, MA

Policy area: Workforce Development/Education

Service provider: Jewish Vocational Services (JVS)

Size of investment: $12.43 million

Maximum success payments possible: $15 million

Investors: Living Cities, Blended Catalyst Fund; Prudential Financial; Maycomb Capital, Community Outcomes Fund; Combined Jewish Philanthropies Donor Advised Funds; The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy; Blue Haven Initiative; The Boston Foundation; The Boston Impact Initiative; ImpactAssets; The Inherent Foundation; The Kresge Foundation; The Shapiro Foundation; and The Sorenson Impact Foundation.

Intermediary: Social Finance

Other partners: Choate Hall & Stewart LLP, Legal Expertise; UMB Fund Services, Fiscal Agent; Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Placement Agent; Jobs for the Future, Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab, Technical Assistance.

Evaluator: Economic Mobility Corporation

Evaluation methodology: Not publicly available

Outcome payor: Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Outcomes that yield payments: (1) earnings, (2) successful transitions to higher education, and (3) program engagement.

Timeframe: Three years

Date announced: June 2017

The Intervention

Intervention: Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) will provide approximately 2,000 adults in the Greater Boston region with vocational English-language classes, occupational-skills training, and college-transition programming over three years. The goal is that these programs help the recipients achieve higher education, make successful transitions to employment, and receive higher wages. JVS will be offering four program tracks: Rapid Employment, English for Advancement, Skills Training, and Bridges to College. Rapid Employment provides English and job placement services to adults (primarily refugees) looking for a first job immediately. English for Advancement is designed for higher-level English speakers looking for employment or job advancement. Skills Training supports job placement in the health care or hospitality industry. Bridges to College supports individuals looking to transition into higher education.

Evidence base behind the intervention: JVS has run several vocational training programs over the past 15 years in partnership with many employers. Over 90% of participants have been placed in jobs after completing their programs. In addition, JVS has provided employment services to local refugee populations for over 40 years, and over 80% of refugee job seekers are hired per year. In 2012, JVS conducted a Social Return on Investment (SROI) study using several years of program data, and they estimated that every $1 invested in JVS programs produced an average return of $2-3 in benefits to participants within the first one to two years of program completion. Within five to ten years, the average return was $5-15. Other third-party evaluations of JVS’s programs, including a 2003 study conducted by Public Private Ventures and a 2011 survey by Social Impact Research, have found JVS’s programs to be effective as well.