Many American parents who would like to enhance their skills and build careers in high-growth industries face barriers to participating in training, such as access to child care. In response, the U.S. Department of Labor established the Strengthening Working Families Initiative (SWFI) grant program in 2016. These grants were awarded to 13 nonprofit organizations, local workforce development boards, institutions of higher learning, and municipalities in 12 states. They were designed to increase access to education and training by addressing barriers that parents face. As this grant program draws to a close in 2021, it leaves a legacy of sustainable programming that has helped families navigate workforce and child care systems.
Over the last four years, Mathematica’s SWFI technical assistance (TA) team helped grantees train parents and integrate local workforce and child care systems. The team worked with grantees to identify challenges, brainstorm solutions, and implement strategies to serve parents seeking to enhance their skills. As this brief summarizes, the team supported grantees through personalized coaching and group-based peer sharing, webinars, convenings, and other activities and resources. Mathematica’s Learn, Innovate, and Improve (LI2) framework informed the team’s approach.
Mathematica and its partner, the Urban Institute, developed briefs that present strategies for and lessons learned in providing TA and coaching to SWFI grantees. These briefs include the following lessons:
- To address challenges in connecting participants to child care supports, create navigator positions guide them through the process of applying for child care subsidies and identifying providers.
- Use various recruitment methods, including word of mouth, to recruit parents for entry into middle- and high-skilled employment.
- Underscore the importance of connecting grant writing and planning efforts with staff who provide services.
- Facilitate job placement for parents through direct connections with employers or job search assistance.
- Provide options for short-term trainings and stackable credentials to improve participant recruitment and retention.