Last month in The Hill, JFF’s CEO and President Maria Flynn wrote that income share agreements (ISAs) and other pay-for-success funding models befit the current economic climate. “In many ways,” Flynn writes, ISAs “were made for a moment in which economic upheaval will heighten concerns of education consumers about the risks of financing education and training.”

Rebounding from the present economic downturn will likely depend on an extensive, diverse network of solutions. Among them, Flynn suggests skills-based education providers and ISAs may have a crucial role to fill. With strong career outcomes and results-based funding, skills-based education could help guide regional job markets and workers toward recovery. 

As an example of forward-thinking funding models, Flynn cites San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) and UC San Diego Extension’s ISA program, launched in collaboration with Vemo Education. Through their first-of-its-kind workforce accelerator program, SDWP and UCSD offer adult learners viable career pathways in digital marketing, business intelligence analysis, front-end development, and Java programming.

Dr. Josh Shapiro of UCSD Extension and Shanaz Chowdhery of Vemo Education unpack the logic behind that landmark ISA program in a recently published white paper, available for download here. For readers interested in alternative financing, the paper offers insights into results-based funding models and the pivotal role they could play in re– and upskilling American workers.

At the time of publication, the paper argued the American workforce was changing rapidly. Since then, the United States has seen COVID-19 reshape the workforce, halt the economy, and bring uncertainty to every other facet of life. Many voices have noted how difficult it can be to see the present clearly, let alone to predict the future. Dr. Shapiro and Chowdhery are careful in their research not to try.

Their work only attempts to offer a fresh perspective to leaders in skills-based education, who acknowledge the need to look ahead and to prepare labor markets for recovery. In “The Case for Income Share Agreements at Extension Schools,” readers may find one possibility for moving skills-based education forward when the time for action comes again.