In the early 1990’s, an acute skills mismatch emerged as San Antonio’s economic base began shifting from manufacturing to service- and technology-driven industries. While 14,000 manufacturing jobs had been lost, over 19,000 new jobs had been created. Many of these were good paying jobs, but they required skills and expertise that were in short supply among San Antonio’s low-income residents.
Project QUEST’s approach to training took shape through a process of grassroots community inquiry led by COPS (Communities Organized for Public Service) and Metro Alliance.
Today QUEST is a nationally recognized workforce strategy with a 25 year history of successfully planning and implementing training programs for professional, high-paying jobs that enhance the economic competitiveness of San Antonio. QUEST has served over 6,243 participants. QUEST now boasts an 87% completion rate for its participants.
Evaluations performed by national organizations since our inception document QUEST’s effectiveness and impact. The Ford Foundation (Paul Osterman at MIT), the ASPEN Institute, Public/Private Ventures and most recently the Ray Marshall Center at the University of Texas have conducted these evaluations. Locally, Dr. Michael Gilbert, University of Texas at San Antonio, found that Project QUEST’s “Overall Assessment Rating – Effectiveness” was exceptional. This was the highest rating received among the five local workforce programs evaluated in that study. The Generational Impact Study shows the effects of programs such as QUEST on the children of graduates in more detail. Findings suggest that 90% of participants’ children age 18 and over graduated from high school, and 75% have gone on to college.
Dr. Mary E. Stefl, Professor of Health Care Administration at Trinity University, completed a study measuring QUEST’s Return on Investment (ROI) for the fiscal year 2014-2015. During that fiscal year, QUEST placed 362 graduates. With the wage increase from pre-QUEST to post-QUEST dollars, the ROI is $3.00 for every $1.00 invested. In three years, the ROI is $9.84 for every $1.00 invested. In five years, the ROI is $17.67 for every $1.00 invested. This ROI is based on the assumptions that all salaries and benefits increase by 2% per year and benefits are calculated at 20% of pre-QUEST salary. Cost per placement was based on 990 QUEST expenditures.
Organizations in Austin, the Rio Grande Valley, Dallas, Houston, El Paso, TX, Monroe, LA, Tucson, Phoenix, AZ, and Des Moines, IA have replicated the QUEST workforce development model to meet employment needs in their communities. QUEST has also been replicated in Birmingham, Nottingham, and London in the United Kingdom.
Some of Project QUEST’s Sister organizations are: Project VIDA, Capital Idea, Job Path, and Project ARRIBA.