Project QUEST provides financial resources and supportive services to people with low income to help them complete occupational training programs, pass certification exams and obtain credentials, and access well-paying jobs in the health care industry.

Project Quality Employment Through Skills Training (QUEST)  is currently offering some services remotely in response to COVID-19
Project Quality Employment Through Skills Training (QUEST) is currently offering some services remotely in response to COVID-19

Project QUEST provides financial resources and supportive services to people with low income to help them complete occupational training programs, pass certification exams and obtain credentials, and access well-paying jobs in the health care industry.

The program includes a comprehensive set of services and resources to advance participants’ education and employment. These include financial assistance for training-related expenses, including tuition; remedial math and reading instruction; counseling services to address personal and academic concerns and provide emotional support; referral to outside agencies for as well as direct financial assistance with household utilities, food, child care, and similar expenses; weekly meetings that focus on life skills, such as time management and conflict resolution; and job search and placement assistance, including writing resumes, interview practice, and referrals to employers. Participants could enter health career tracks, which included registered nurse, licensed vocational nurse, medical coder, and various technician roles. In the first year of the program, Project QUEST paid 100 percent of tuition and fees for participants who pursued training, as well as the costs of books, uniforms, required vaccinations and drug testing, tutoring and review courses, and licensing exam fees. In the second year, Project QUEST paid 50 percent of the tuition fees. Project QUEST also provided funds in both years for supportive services, such as transportation, medical care, eye exams, utilities, and child care; the amount of financial assistance the program offered for supportive services increased in the second year to offset some of participants’ tuition costs. Participants received services for an average of 22 months. As of 2020, QUEST continues to offer similar services to eligible participants.

Project QUEST participants were required to have at least a high school diploma or GED and, at minimum, to test at an eighth-grade level in reading and a sixth-grade level on the Test of Adult Basic Education. Participants were required to attend one of the program’s health care career tracks on a full-time basis. The program was implemented in San Antonio, TX.

Year evaluation began: 2006
Populations and employment barriers: High school diploma or GED
Intervention services: Case management, Education, Substance use disorder treatment and mental health services, Supportive services, Soft skills training, Work readiness activities, Job search assistance
Setting(s): Urban only

Effectiveness Rating and Effect By Outcome Domain

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Outcome domain Term Effectiveness rating Effect in 2018 dollars and percentages Effect in standard deviations Sample size
Increase earnings Short-term Little evidence to assess support unfavorable $-3,619 per year -0.17 410
Long-term Supported favorable $4,434 per year 0.21 410
Very long-term Supported favorable $4,874 per year 0.23 410
Increase employment Short-term Supported favorable 4% (in percentage points) 0.09 410
Long-term Supported favorable 8% (in percentage points) 0.19 410
Very long-term Little evidence to assess support favorable 4% (in percentage points) 0.10 410
Decrease benefit receipt Short-term No evidence to assess support
Long-term No evidence to assess support
Very long-term Little evidence to assess support favorable $-204 per year -0.07 343
Increase education and training All measurement periods Supported favorable 8% (in percentage points) 0.15 343

Implementation Details

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Dates covered by study

Project QUEST began in 1992 and is still operating. The evaluation includes individuals that enrolled in Project QUEST between April 2006 and October 2008 and reports on the two-, six-, and nine-year impacts of Project QUEST.

Organizations implementing intervention

Project QUEST is a workforce agency that was started to implement the QUEST programming. Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) and Metro Alliance, two community-organizing groups, worked together to create Project QUEST in 1992.

Populations served

Project QUEST is a voluntary program for individuals with incomes that are less than 50 percent of the city’s median income. Participants must commit to working full time for 18 months after completing their training, are required to have at least a high school diploma or GED, and, at minimum, must test at an eighth-grade level in reading and a sixth-grade level on the Test of Adult Basic Education. Nearly 90 percent of the study participants identified as female. The intervention group was 74 percent Latino, 13 percent African American, and 10 percent White. Twenty-nine percent of the participants were between the ages of 18 and 24, 45 percent were between the ages of 25 and 34, and 26 percent were between the ages of 35 and 64. The average age of the participants was 30.3. 72 percent of the intervention group had children younger than 18.

Description of services implemented

Participants could enter training for different health career tracks, including registered nurse, licensed vocational nurse, medical coder, and other medical technician roles. The program included a comprehensive set of services and resources to advance participants’ education and employment. Some of the Project QUEST services offered were:

  • financial assistance for training-related expenses, including tuition
  • remedial math and reading instruction
  • counseling services to provide emotional support and address personal and academic concerns, such as difficulties adjusting to attending school again or balancing studies with family duties
  • referral to outside agencies for direct financial assistance with household utilities, food, child care, and similar expenses
  • life skills meetings focusing on time management, conflict resolution, study habits, and critical thinking
  • job search and placement assistance, including resume writing, interview practice, and referrals to employers

Service intensity

Participants received services for an average of 22 months. Hour-long life skills meetings, called Vision, Initiative, and Perseverance sessions, occurred weekly. These meetings were mandatory while participants were taking classes so they could turn in attendance sheets signed by their instructors, which were necessary to continue receiving tuition assistance.
At the beginning of the study, Project QUEST paid 100 percent of tuition and fees for participants who pursued training. After the third year of this study, Project QUEST began covering 50 percent of tuition instead (fees were still covered by the program). Forty-two percent of participants were affected by this change, but all participants in the study had at least one year of tuition completely paid for by Project QUEST. The cost of books, uniforms, required vaccinations and drug testing, tutoring and review courses, and licensing exam fees were covered for all study participants.

Comparison conditions

The comparison group did not receive the Project QUEST services but were able to seek training and courses on their own.

Partnerships

Project QUEST partnered with Alamo Community College District, who helped provide training and remediation classes to participants.

Staffing

One recruiter helped inform the public about the program. Twelve counselors reviewed applications, administered assessments to determine eligibility, and prepared plans to move participants forward with training and employment. Other staff called success advocates encouraged individuals that did not initially qualify to keep in touch and to return to Project QUEST if their eligibility changed, and they collected wage and employment data on program participants that had left the program within the prior year. Occupational analysts tracked issues that impacted local and national labor markets, connected with employers about their hiring needs, and interacted with professional associations to better understand the factors driving labor market changes. Project QUEST also employed case managers, job developers, and placement specialists.

Many of the staff were former military personnel. The study authors did not include information on staff training, degrees, or certifications.

Local context

Project QUEST was implemented in San Antonio, TX. The program was started in San Antonio to address the economic shift in the city from manufacturing to service- and technology-driven industries.

Participants are recruited to join the program by leaders from COPS and Metro Alliance, through various member churches, and at career fairs. Individuals can also be referred to the program by housing organizations, food banks, literacy centers, and other agencies.

Fidelity measures

The study did not discuss any tools to measure fidelity to the intervention model.

Funding source

Project QUEST is primarily funded through the local government, with the city of San Antonio underwriting more than half of the yearly budget from its general fund. COPS and Metro Alliance help Project QUEST to secure this funding from the city in yearly budget negotiations. The rest of Project QUEST’s funding comes from fundraising and other local support. Although Project QUEST has received money from the Workforce Investment Act in the past, they have not applied for these funds in recent years because the local funding is more flexible.

Cost information

The average cost per participant was $10,501. These are the per-person costs of operating the QUEST program, including tuition that was covered, student supports, program staff and other service costs, and administration and fundraising.

Studies of this Intervention

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Study Quality Rating Study Counts per Rating
High High 1