A recent op-ed in the New York Times acknowledges what many of us have long known to be true: that empowering people through education and training is one of the surest ways to eradicate poverty, leading to stronger communities and a more vibrant economy.
When a person gains new skills, they have greater access to employment opportunities and a better chance of climbing out of poverty – for good. But the benefits do not end with the individual. When individuals find employment they help businesses grow, and they pay more taxes and rely less on government supports. Our state becomes more competitive. We all benefit.
The New York Times piece goes on to quote Gordon Berlin, president of the poverty research organization MDRC: “To make a difference, we have to do things that actually work.” But how do we know what actually works?
Increasingly, education and training programs have been developing ways to measure the impact that they make. Many organizations have developed return-on-investment methodologies that show, unsurprisingly, that when we invest in human potential we all benefit in real economic terms. Interested in measuring these benefits for the State of Minnesota, state legislators passed a bill, signed into law last year, that requires the state to develop a way to measure the return on investment of workforce education and training programs funded or administered by the state.
The Governor’s Workforce Development Council (GWDC), which is responsible for advising the Governor and state legislature on performance standards and measures, has taken up the charge. Last year, the GWDC convened the Return on Investment (ROI) Initiative, consisting of economists, leaders of community organizations, and representatives of state and local government.
The goal of the ROI Initiative is to create a standard return-on-investment methodology that can be applied to workforce education and training programs across the state, starting with those administered or funded by the State of Minnesota. A successful approach will help Minnesotans understand how workforce programs benefit the state. It will allow policy makers make smarter decisions about state investments and help service providers learn from and improve their results.
In short, it will help us determine what actually works for Minnesota.
Developing a standard approach to measuring the return on investment of the state’s varied workforce training and education programs is not without its challenges. ROI Initiative members started by defining criteria for success and learning from other states like Washington and Texas that have statewide return-on-investment frameworks. The group has just started to develop an initial model, and is aiming to share its progress and solicit feedback from stakeholders later this year.
In the meantime, check here for more updates on the GWDC and the ROI Initiative. And if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to ROI Project Manager Cristine Leavitt (Cristine.Leavitt@state.mn.us) or yours truly (Nicholas.Maryns@state.mn.us).
What are your thoughts about ROI in workforce development? Join the discussion here!