I often host my extended family for Thanksgiving dinner. When I do, I tell them where to go, when to be there, and what to bring, as in, specific dishes. (I may be a little controlling).

But can you imagine if I didn’t? If I invited them for dinner, but didn’t offer a centralized location? If I asked them all to bring something, but didn’t tell them whether to bring appetizers, sides or desserts? Sure, maybe everyone would turn up in the right place at the right time, and we would have a full complement of courses. More likely, though, some people wouldn’t get there, we would have too much of one thing and not enough of another, and everyone would leave unsatiated.

This is what it’s like for individuals navigating our workforce system today. Those looking for work who could benefit from services, like pre-employment screening, training for in-demand jobs, placement into work and coaching for advancement, find the services hard to access, uncoordinated or just unavailable.

The good news? There is a better way! A five-year, rigorously evaluated program our Fund supported called WorkAdvance demonstrated that when individuals were given access to a full complement of aligned services their earnings were 14 percent higher after two years than counterparts in a control group.

The better news? Dollars for services delivered through WorkAdvance were used more efficiently, with participants nearly four times as likely to enter into technical training and more than four times as likely to complete training as those with access to the current system. The cost per participant through WorkAdvance ($5,200 to $6,700) was comparable to the cost of current service delivery.

The difference? A connection to the right, comprehensive services at the right time that were informed by in-demand jobs in growing sectors, with a focus on advancement, not just job placement.

A cost comparable model, with better outcomes? Seems like a reasonable thing to rally around. Let’s find ways to work together on organizing our potluck so individuals can access a well-balanced set of services, and so we can fund in a way that doesn’t have us supporting too many appetizers—or, worse, not enough desserts!

Want to know more? Access the full report on the local impact the national WorkAdvance pilot had in Northeast Ohio, or contact me at bburke@thefundneo.org