Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge Grants Evaluation
The U.S. economy lost more than 7 million jobs during the recent "Great Recession," and employment has not fully recovered. At the same time, the population had continued to increase, pushing job growth to the top of the nation's economic agenda. Moreover, employers in some high-wage industries with the potential to create jobs were having trouble finding American workers with the skills to fill the vacancies. To boost economic development, several federal agencies joined forces to fund and otherwise support two grant programs intended to foster development at the local level: (1) the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge (JIAC), and (2) the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge (AM-JIAC). These two initiatives involved 30 self-identified regional innovation clusters that leveraged broad public/private partnerships to promote industry development in key sectors (such as technology) and regions, support innovation and regional collaboration, train workers to enter high-wage industries, and support entrepreneurship and the growth of small business.
Mathematica and its partner, the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, conducted an evaluation of these programs. The goals of the evaluation were to examine (1) the role of multi-agency collaboration at the Federal and regional levels, (2) the history, leadership and management of the clusters, (3) how the partners worked together to completed each others' activities, (4) the activities funded and delivered under the initiatives, (5) the workforce-related outcomes that clusters reported achieving, (6) practices to promote sustainability of the initiatives, and (7) key lessons learned through implementation. The evaluation drew on a review of grantee documents, interviews with federal staff from funding and non-funding agencies, in-depth site visits to a subset of grantee clusters, lists of 322 partners across the 30 regions, and a survey of 236 partner agencies.