Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Urban Education Institute, City partner to boost employment

Urban Education Institute, City partner to boost employment

Michael Villarreal is the principal investigator of the evaluation project and director of the Urban Education Institute.

MAY 10, 2022 — The UTSA Urban Education Institute is helping ensure that City of San Antonio residents have the opportunity to secure high-demand jobs.

UEI is serving as the evaluator for SA: Ready to Work (RTW), San Antonio’s $2 million plan to increase access to education and quality jobs through tuition assistance, support services, emergency funding and job placement programs.

“It’s a big, bold move in developing a workforce development infrastructure for adults in San Antonio,” said Michael Villarreal, principal investigator of the evaluation project and director of the UEI. “We want to be at the table of all the major policies needed to increase education attainment, skills development and ultimately improve the quality of life of our residents.”

The institute’s primary objective will be to help strengthen the design and implementation of SA: Ready to Work, Villarreal said.

“Along the way and at the end of this engagement, we will be estimating the impact that the program has had on improving earnings and employment of participants,” he said. “There are two major buckets of our work. One is design-based implementation research and the second bucket is evaluation.”


“We’re creating a system for continuous improvement.”



With the program already in progress, the first step is meeting with the city’s key partners who are implementing the program, Villarreal said.

There are a variety of partners who do intake assessment and provide services to support students going through a job training program. Then there are the organizations who actually deliver instruction,” Villarreal said. “We’re going to be spending time with these groups to help them map out their processes and systematically collect input from folks who are on the frontline implementing these processes. We want to understand if the plans are being carried out as intended and if they are producing the expected results.”

UEI conducts collaborative, improvement research. In this project, UEI will be working closely with program implementors to create a two-way street for exchanging data and insights. Researchers and practitioners will develop a shared theory of implementation and shared client response theory for RTW’s six major function areas: community outreach and marketing, intake services, assessment services, case management, training and education, and data entry.

UEI also plans to incorporate some improvement science work with the RTW’s case managers to address a shared problem-solving process and address workplace challenges.

“From our experience working with workforce development organizations and schools, we consider Ready to Work’s case management as a critical function area that will disproportionately influence the program’s overall success,” Villarreal said.

The institute also will be evaluating earning and employment data from the Texas Workforce Commission to track whether the program is making a difference for its participants,” Villarreal said.


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“Our goal is to really help improve the plans as quickly as possible. We’re not waiting until the end of the year to identify course corrections,” he said. “We’re actually working hand-in-hand with them to identify friction points in their processes and identify solutions to those friction points as quickly as possible.”

The goal, said Villarreal, is to single out the processes that are not working and develop a plan for improving them. 

“We’re creating a system for continuous improvement,” he said.

Valerie Bustamante Johnson



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