Research on Long-Term Efficacy of Career Programs: Survey of Education Attainment (SEA)

Funded by a grant from the ECMC Foundation (ECMCF), NORC at the University of Chicago (NORC) underwent a multiphase process to design, field, and analyze a survey with a nationally representative sample of adult learners between the ages of 18 and 64 who were either working or intending to work in the next five years. The survey collected information on the characteristics of both accredited/portable (A/P) and non-accredited/non-portable (NA/NP) workforce training that respondents have completed, as well as reasons for taking the training, difficulties in completing it, the perceived value of the training, and satisfaction with it. Information on any degrees earned, career goals, debt associated with obtaining training, and current employment status and income also was obtained.

In spring of 2019, NORC reached out to a number of education experts, researchers, administrators and learners, conducting qualitative informational interviews to gather data regarding post-secondary, credited, non-accredited and workforce trainings. The results of these interviews assisted in informing the development of the Survey of Education Attainment. A series of cognitive interviews was also conducted to test measurement prior to administration. In the fall of 2019, a sample drawn from NORC’s AmeriSpeak panel was administered the SEA, yielding 2290 completed questionnaires. Over the course of winter and spring of 2020, NORC conducted coding and analytic activities, and developed a public use file (PUF) of the survey data, along with a findings brief.

Findings from the SEA showed that 71% of the adult population reported taking some form of career training. Among those who completed trainings, the mean number of trainings completed was 5.4. Among the training programs examined in the study (certifications/licenses, certificates, work experience/apprenticeship and continuing education programs), between 58% and 67% were from training providers that were not accredited by the US Department of Education and do not offer portable college credit (that is, non-accredited/non-portable, or NA/NP trainings). The perceived usefulness of the training and its applicability to the worker’s current job were the biggest factors driving satisfaction with training. However, the NA/NP status of a training was not found to be significantly associated with satisfaction. Please see the research brief (located under "Resources") for additional findings: (Characteristics, Quality, and Outcomes from Nontraditional Workforce Training Programs: Results from the Survey of Educational Attainment).

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