A Systematic Equity Review of Sectoral Workforce Programs

African American man leading a meeting
Knowing who and who is not served is essential to ensuring that sectoral programs are effective for the people who need them the most and to understanding how programs can be adapted to better serve these populations.

Recent rigorous evaluations have revealed that a handful of sectoral programs have been successful at increasing the employment and earnings of participants multiple years after participation. Yet, there is a lack of evidence on which groups of individuals benefit from these programs.

Each program’s offerings, contexts, and effects vary. Additionally, the populations they serve—and don’t serve—may vary, raising questions about which communities may be benefiting from these services and which may be underserved.

The Systematic Equity Review

The PROMISE Center conducted a systematic equity review of rigorous research on sectoral workforce training programs to identify how these programs operate. Specifically, we focused on understanding where sectoral training programs are offered, who participates, how they are served, and who remains underserved.

Our goal was to describe the populations served by these programs and identify which participant characteristics are reported and not reported in evaluations. We also aimed to understand the broader context of these programs by examining characteristics of the areas in which they operate. Another key goal of our work was identifying variation in program offerings by the population served.

In this study, the PROMISE Center:

  • Conducted a systematic equity review of studies of relevant workforce programs;
  • Extracted critical information on program components and information on whom and where programs are offered;
  • Investigated what is reported in evaluations, specifically which participant groups are reported on and for which characteristics do evaluations report outcomes;
  • Examined the work of sectoral workforce programs, specifically which types of programs, settings, and combinations of program features were offered, who program beneficiaries were, and where programs were operating; and
  • Identified and provided information on the gaps among program offerings, their program beneficiaries, and where they were provided.

This data can provide the workforce development field with a better sense of where sectoral programs are needed.

Key Takeaways

Who is being served by sectoral training programs?

  • Sectoral training programs successfully target groups that face challenges in the labor market.
  • Racial minority groups are more highly represented in training programs than they are in their local counties and national averages.

Are there variations in program offerings?

  • Variation in program offerings is most pronounced by sex of participants but confounded with industry. Programs with majority female participants provide more wraparound services than those comprised mostly of male participants.

For which specific groups do evaluations report outcomes?

  • Participant characteristics are not consistently reported throughout evaluations of sectoral training programs. Likewise, there is no consistency in reported outcomes for specific groups.


The PROMISE Center is directly supported by the AIR Equity Initiative, AIR’s $100+ million five-year investment to advance equity in several important areas: workforce development, education, public safety and policing, and health. The AIR Equity Initiative is committed to investing in the generation and use of high-quality evidence that address the harmful effects of segregation by race and place.

Sarah Sahni
Principal Researcher