Engaging Disconnected Young People in Education and Work: Findings from the Project Rise

Author(s): Manno, Michelle S.; Yang, Edith; and Bangser, Michael.

Organizational Author(s): MDRC

Funding Source: Corporation for National and Community Service

Resource Availability: Publicly available

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Evaluates and provides findings on the implementation of an evidence-based program for youth who are disconnected from school and work in New York City, Newark, New Jersey, and Kansas City, Missouri in the Project Rise program, funded through the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a public-private partnership administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service.


“In the United States, 6.7 million young people ages 16 to 24 are neither in school or college nor working.  As many as 1.6 million of these ‘disconnected’ young people have reached age 18 yet lack either a high school diploma or the equivalent. Their disconnection from both school and work means that they are not accumulating the important human capital and labor market skills that provide a critical foundation for future success. Neglecting these young people can exact a heavy toll on not only the individuals but also society as a whole, for example, through lost productivity, increased dependence on public assistance, and higher rates of criminal activity. In recognition of this concern, Congress recently passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which places increased emphasis on employment and training services for disconnected young people who are out of school.

This report presents program implementation findings from an evaluation of Project Rise, a program launched in mid-2011 that drew on the research and operating experiences from other programs for at-risk, out-of-school young people. The Project Rise programs, which enrolled a new group (or cohort) of participants approximately every six months, were still operating as of fall 2015. The operators included three organizations in New York City and one each in Newark, New Jersey, and Kansas City, Missouri. The program model was designed to facilitate the reconnections of young people ages 18 to 24 who do not have a high school degree or the equivalent, read at least at a sixth-grade level (but with half required to read between sixth- and eighth-grade levels), have been out of school and work for at least six months, and have not participated in any other education or training programs in that time” (p. ES-1).

The evaluation is guided by the following three research questions:

1. “Within the overall population of disconnected young adults, what were the characteristics of the participants who entered Project Rise, and what drew them to the program?

2.  How did the different providers implement the program model, and what adjustments did they make over time?

3. What were the duration and intensity of the participants’ engagement in the program, and what outcomes did participants achieve during the 12-month program period?” (p.ES-7).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

Based on the implementation study, the report found that:
• “Participants were attracted to Project Rise more by the education component than by the internship opportunity.
• More than 91 percent of program enrollees attended at least some high school equivalency preparation or, less commonly, high school classes. On average, those who attended class received almost 160 hours of instruction. About 72 percent of enrollees began internships; over half of the internship participants worked more than 120 hours.
• Although participants received considerable case management and educational and internship programming, the instability in participants’ lives made it difficult to engage them continuously in the planned sequence of activities. Enrolling young people in cohorts with their peers, as well as support from case managers and other adult staff, seemed to help promote participant engagement. The education-conditioned internships appeared to have had a modest influence on encouraging engagement for some participants.
• Within 12 months of enrolling in Project Rise, more than 25 percent of participants earned a high school equivalency credential or (much less commonly) a high school diploma; 45 percent of participants who entered with at least a ninth-grade reading level earned a credential or diploma. Further, about 25 percent entered unsubsidized employment in this timeframe.
• It may be important to consider intermediate (or perhaps nontraditional) outcome measures in programs for disconnected young people, since such measures may reflect progress that is not apparent when relying exclusively on more traditional ones” (p.iii).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

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Views: 199
Publication Date: 2015
Posted: 1/20/2017 2:42 PM
Posted In: Workforce System Strategies
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