CivicLab selects ProjectAttain! as one of five rural partnerships across the U.S. to participate in a two-year initiative to improve higher education and workforce systems.

Supported by Ascendium Education Group, ProjectAttain! will receive training, technical assistance, and direct financial support valued at $150,000 to develop and implement system-level strategies that create pathways to prosperity for rural, low-income learners. Sacramento-based ProjectAttain! joins a cohort of four other partnerships from Florida, Indiana, New Mexico, and Texas that will meet virtually and in person to share ideas, resources, and receive technical assistance.

“We are thrilled to be selected to participate in this national program,” said Dr. Jenni Murphy, founder of ProjectAttain! and dean of the College of Continuing Education at Sacramento State. “ProjectAttain! exists to help adults who opted out of their education for one reason or another get back on track with achieving their goals. Our efforts to support systems change in education and workforce development will be bolstered exponentially through our collaboration with CivicLab and by working in collaboration with the other partner programs across the country.”

More than 810,000 adults across Northern California’s 25 counties make up this initiative’s territory, possess some college, vocational training, or high school credits, but have not completed their degree, certificate, or diploma. In the six-county Sacramento region alone, more than 400,000 individuals face the same circumstances. The Public Policy Institute of California predicts the state will have a shortfall of at least 1.5 million individuals with bachelor’s degrees by 2030. Additional data indicate the shortfall increases to over 3.3 million when factoring in certificates. ProjectAttain! aims to learn CivicLab’s state-of-the art processes to develop processes that will ultimately dissolve this issue in California’s north-state.

“This often overlooked and underinvested population deserves the opportunity to finish what they started,” said Evan Schmidt, Valley Vision CEO and ProjectAttain!’s Executive Director. “ProjectAttain! is here to help those who have paused their education find their way back because we know that employers, economies, and communities benefit when more adults complete their education.”

CivicLab’s initiative launched in February 2022 with ProjectAttain!’s guiding team, comprised of leaders in workforce and education, attending a two-day Stakeholder Engagement Process Learning Lab at CivicLab’s headquarters in Columbus, Indiana. The ProjectAttain! team will return in April 2022 for CivicLab’s System Building Lab to improve plans for making lasting change.

“Though many partnerships are deserving of this recognition and support, ProjectAttain! demonstrated they had the relationships, capacity, and capability to make real change,” said Dakota Pawlicki, director of Talent Hubs at CivicLab.

ProjectAttain! was selected through a national call for proposals. Each partnership in the cohort includes higher education institutions, nonprofit organizations, public agencies, private-sector partners, and other local stakeholders who work together to improve education and workforce outcomes. To be selected, partnerships were required to submit plans that both improve outcomes for their residents and make lasting changes on higher education and workforce systems during the two-year grant period.

“Rural communities have largely been left out of national initiatives designed to improve postsecondary education and workforce outcomes,” said Kirstin Yeado, program officer at Ascendium. “Ascendium is pleased to help build the systems necessary to ensure more learners from low-income backgrounds earn degrees and credentials.”

ProjectAttain! began in 2018 as a bold idea that mobilized area leaders to shed light on working-age adults with some college but no degree. ProjectAttain! has grown into a dynamic nonprofit bringing together organizations, talent, and seed funding to serve as a catalyst for equitable social mobility and economic growth for all working-age adults returning to complete a formal educational credential at the diploma, certificate, or degree level.

“By helping people complete their education, our work transforms lives, families, communities, and careers, and – at the same time – generates immense payback for individuals, employers, and our economy,” said Murphy.