APT and The Cara Program Announce Findings from Data Dive Project

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APT employees formed teams to provide data-driven solutions to address two key areas of interest at The Cara Program: employment success and participant attrition.

Applied Predictive Technologies (APT) and The Cara Program announced today the findings from a recent “data dive” project, which culminated in a multi-city presentation on July 24th. The project was designed to bring together APT employees with representatives from The Cara Program to develop shared insights that lead to positive action in the service of the community. APT is a leading cloud-based analytics software company and The Cara Program is a high-impact non-profit based in Chicago that provides job training and placement to motivated individuals (called “students”) affected by homelessness or poverty.

While the majority of APT’s clients span consumer-facing industries such as retail, restaurants, banks, and hotels, APT is passionate about dedicating time and talent to positively impacting local communities. APT’s “data dive” projects are focused on helping local non-profit organizations improve their decision-making capabilities through the use of software and data analysis. APT employees from across the company volunteer on data dive teams to analyze key areas of interest for the organization. In previous data dives, APT has worked with D.C.-based non-profits, including D.C. Prep, the Capital Area Food Bank and the AppleTree Institute. On the heels of APT recently opening a Chicago office, the Cara Program project marks the first expansion of APT data dives to a city outside of Washington, D.C.

During the data dive with The Cara Program, APT employees formed teams to provide data-driven solutions to address two key areas of interest at The Cara Program:

1)    Employment Success – What student and program characteristics make a student more or less likely to receive a job, and what can be changed to help more students get job placements?
2)    Student Attrition – At what stage is student attrition more likely to occur? How can The Cara Program better understand which students are most at risk of leaving and could benefit from additional resources and/or intervention?

Employment Success

The Cara Program defines employment success as a student receiving a permanent job and retaining that job for a full year. Cara has successfully placed students in more than 4,300 permanent and long-term jobs over the years, in addition to more than 2,700 transitional jobs. However, there is great variability between how students entering the program obtain permanent jobs and their long-term success after the program.

One team of APT employees examined what factors made a student more likely to succeed at Cara. The team hypothesized that certain foundational characteristics about students (e.g., age, income, family status, etc.) would automatically affect student performance, essentially setting a “watermark” for success. In addition to these qualities, the APT team identified certain factors that The Cara Program might be able to change to improve student performance, such as training hours, types of classes students enrolled in, or attendance rates.

The team found that a number of foundational characteristics did positively impact student performance, including: being younger, having children, and being married. After accounting for these elements, the team found that there were still several factors that Cara might be able to influence to improve student success. Students who performed well in the program often did the following: spent more days in the program, had fewer absences, had access to a vehicle, and participated in an ancillary program that Cara runs, called Cleanslate.

Cleanslate is a social enterprise of The Cara Program providing paid transitional jobs in neighborhood beautification. Notably, the data dive confirmed that the Cleanslate program can positively impact student employment outcomes in the long run, especially for high-needs students.

Using this foundational model to predict natural student success, the team was able to identify individuals who were potentially at risk to not receive a job after the program. If The Cara Program could optimize certain program elements that generally impact student success, these students might have a better chance of getting a job placement through the program. The team projected that if The Cara Program could aid/incentivize at least 20% of at-risk students to have fewer absences, adhere to program rules, and get access to transportation for increased viability of employment opportunities, they could significantly improve the time it took students to be placed in a job.

Student Attrition

About 800 students join The Cara Program each year, and about half of those students end up with permanent or long-term employment. As such, Cara wanted to better understand why students leave the program and how student attrition might be prevented. Cara was particularly interested in understanding which students leave towards the end of the program and how they might be encouraged to finish the last few steps before job placement.

To better understand why students leave the program, a second APT team began by examining attrition rates over time. After measuring when attrition was most likely to occur, the team a predictive model using student and program characteristics to understand which elements best forecast attrition.

The team found that student attrition was highest towards the beginning and end of the program. The APT team focused on students who left the program towards the end due to the significant investment already made in these students. During this portion of the program, students who were more likely to attrite often had children, received government assistance income, and did not closely follow program guidelines, among other factors. These findings led the APT team to recommend that The Cara Program focus retention efforts on students who fit these types of characteristics.

Improving the Application Process

A team of APT engineers also worked during the data dive to streamline the student application portal. During the dive, the team developed a new student application form on Cara’s website that included time-saving features and automatic email notifications for both applicants and Cara Program volunteers.

For student applicants, the new form will increase the ease of completing an application by enabling students to save their information in the form and return to it at another time. The new form also automatically populated information for referral applicants to reduce hurdles to applying.

For Cara, the new application will help reduce the amount of time required to manually enter applicants into their database by automatically feeding information into Cara’s CRM system. Additionally, the engineering team made enhancements to the mock interview tracking system in their CRM to help volunteers invest more time in guiding and evaluating applicants.

The APT team presented these findings in an interactive session with The Cara Program to gain their feedback and develop shared insights for improving program success.

Maria Kim, CEO of The Cara Program, commented, “Making data-driven decisions is at the foundation of our organization. It was incredible to work with such an analytically sophisticated group as APT. We brought our most challenging questions to them, and they turned around actionable insights quickly. I’m excited to see how this analysis helps The Cara Program achieve and exceed our goals.”

APT VP Sarah Hinkfuss Zampardo added, “We’ve been honored to work with The Cara Program on this data dive. Their smart and mission-driven team was a great partner in determining how we can expand their strong impact in the Chicago community.”

About APT

APT is a leading cloud-based analytics software company that enables organizations to rapidly and precisely measure cause-and-effect relationships between business initiatives and outcomes to generate economic value. Our intuitive and proprietary Test & Learn® software utilizes sophisticated algorithms to analyze large amounts of data, enabling business leaders to conduct experiments and allowing them to make optimal decisions and implement business initiatives at scale. We also offer products that support decision-making for specific business needs including transaction analysis, space planning, category management and location selection. APT’s client portfolio features some of the world’s best known brands, including Walmart, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Victoria’s Secret, American Family Insurance, Hilton Hotels, SUBWAY, TD Bank, T-Mobile, and others. APT has offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, London, Bentonville, Taipei, Tokyo, Sydney, and Chicago. Visit http://www.predictivetechnologies.com to learn more.

About The Cara Program

The Cara Program is a Chicago-based non-profit which provides job training and placement to motivated individuals affected by homelessness and poverty. Since its inception, The Cara Program has placed over 3,800 individuals into quality, permanent or long-term employment (at a one-year job retention rate of 72% for the most recent program year). The organization helps mitigate many barriers to employment, and addresses the need for skilled workers in Illinois, by providing its students with on-the-job training and industry-linked training courses. The Cara Program also has engaged over 100 employers across Chicagoland that partner with The Cara Program to fill their entry-level positions.

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Cathy Baker
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