Discusses evidence-based and emerging strategies for implementing key WIOA provisions pertaining to out-of-school youth.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) “aims to improve the public workforce system by promoting the use of evidence-based practices and demand-driven strategies to meet the needs of job seekers, workers, and employers in our economy. Many aspects of the legislation were informed by research and evaluations, and it is important that their implementation continue to be informed by current and future research. The evaluation literature shows that what works for adults does not always work for youth, and what has worked for one group of young people may not necessarily work for others.” (p.8)

This report draws upon available research and the MDRC staff’s on-the-ground experience to summarize existing knowledge that can guide implementation of key WIOA provisions on serving out-of-school youth. It is organized in four sections: The first two sections focus on strategies for reaching and engaging a greater number of out-of-school youth, especially those who are most vulnerable; the third section reviews evidence on career pathway programs; and the final section discusses strategies for engaging private sector employers in job-related initiatives for youth” (p.1).

(Abstractor: Author)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“Reaching and Engaging Out-of-School Youth “Past studies indicate that young people are more likely to engage when the following elements are present: financial incentives and opportunities for paid training and work, …opportunities to feel connected to caring adults and to a community, … [and] support services that address a young person’s barriers to participation” (p.2). “Engaging the Most Vulnerable Out-of-School Youth Very few programs target the young people who are the most persistently disconnected, and there is not much evidence on what works in engaging them” (p.3). Emerging strategies include “intensive case management and one-on-one assistance from a caring adult, …the use of trauma-informed, evidence-backed behavioral interventions, … [and] [b]ehaviorally informed enrollment and engagement practices” (p.3-4). “Adopting Career Pathways “The evidence of effectiveness of sector-based and career pathway models is still preliminary, especially for young people. Two recent evaluations of sector-based employment programs, which provided short-term training and work experience in a targeted industry sector, yielded promising results for out-of-school youth” (p.5). While results on two “bridge” models supporting students in earning high school equivalency and post-secondary credentials are promising, neither specifically targets young adults. (p.5-6) “Engaging Employers Federal efforts to engage employers in workforce development for disadvantaged workers have generally relied on financial incentives, such as wage subsidies and tax credits; but even then, participation from private sector employers has been limited. Based on past research, as well as a recent MDRC forum of scholars and experts on demand-side strategies for employing young adults, providers should consider the following suggestions when engaging employers: • [p]ut more resources and staff into job development … • [w]ork with intermediaries to link workers to employers … • [c]onsider the fact that employers are a heterogeneous group with diverse needs, and thus may have different motivations to participate in workforce development activities, … • [c]onsider the changing nature of work and employer hiring practices in this country … • [e]ducate employers in effective youth development and supervision practices to ensure engagement and retention …” (p.6-7). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)