“On-ramps to Good Jobs; Fueling Innovation for the Learning Ecosystem of the Future” by Strada Institute for the Future of Work and Entangled Solutions finds that an emerging category of career “on-ramp” programs can boost skills, employability, and earnings for adults without a degree who earn less than $25,000 per year.

More than 32 million working-class Americans are at risk of being left behind in today’s job market, but a crop of promising training programs can help them make the transition to financially stable careers.

The report analyzes nine on-ramps (out of a market of 65 around the country), including: i.c.stars, JobTrain, JVS, LaunchCode, Per Scholas, Philadelphia Works, Samaschool, STRIVE International, and Techtonic. Their effectiveness is rooted in deep integration with the demands of employers, layering targeted technical competencies with “human+” skills like communication and problem solving, and the flexibility for working learners that balances continuing education with family demands. For example, a California on-ramp called “JobTrain” offers on-site services to help participants gain access to legal advice, affordable childcare, referrals, and government benefits.

All of the programs included in the report target skill development in areas ranging from basic workplace competencies, such as professional dress, to technical skills for fields like IT and cybersecurity.
The unique approaches of these on-ramps programs are changing the opportunity outcomes for Americans who need better options to upskill and rise in today’s global economy. With so few individuals engaged in these programs, there is significant opportunity for like-minded investors, government and employers to advance these solutions to scale.
According to the report, “The research is clear: On-ramps are promising post-secondary learning pathways that are targeted, cost-effective and lead directly to good and better jobs. The challenge, however, is how to help scale these efforts and build better business cases for on-ramps? Some only reach 12 adult learners at a time, but we have millions more who need this important boost in skills. Employers, impact investors, funders, and entrepreneurs as well as policymakers and learning providers all need to take these working models and improve upon them to close the systemic skills gaps for our most vulnerable workers.”