Rural Information Technology Alliance (RITA) TAACCCT Evaluation: Assessing the process and outcomes of a U.S. Department of Labor–grant to multiple institutions to help workers in need

The Situation

To address the rural IT workforce shortage, a collaboration of four colleges — three in Minnesota and one in Texas — is developing a model for training information technology technicians in rural settings. The Rural Information Technology Alliance (RITA) initiative is funded through the Federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grants Program. The Improve Group is serving as the external evaluator for this federal Department of Labor grant, helping this coalition understand how well the program is achieving its desired outcomes and to gauge the effectiveness of its approach.

The Solution

This federal grant evaluation requires a full complement of expertise. To provide insights for mid-course correction and continuous improvement, we work closely with the leadership team to understand how activities are unfolding. We also gather data to provide insight into effectiveness at key points during implementation. To understand impact, we have a quasi-experimental design that requires recruitment of a comparison group. Unexpectedly, this has been an area for great creativity and interpersonal skills as we work to reach and recruit people to join the comparison group. MIEMs, respectful interactions and even a drawing of Bob Dylan have all figured into our outreach. 

Once we have completed the recruitment of study participants, we will:

  • Use propensity score matching on a comparison group for assessing the outcomes of students who benefit from the program over time.
  • Collect data to assess how the program is operating and what difference it makes for the people served

Operations (process) measures:

Difference (outcome) measures:

  • Collaboration
  • Innovation
  • Changes in education and employment practices
  • Quality of recruiting, admissions, and support practices
  • Educational attainment
  • Employment
  • Income

The Results

The current study is ongoing; results will be available in 2017. To serve the needs of the process evaluation for RITA, The Improve Group will provide timely feedback to partners for continual improvement and program development. To serve the outcome evaluation needs, we are using existing data and gathering new data to document whether participant education and employment outcomes differ from the comparison group.