Presents findings from an evaluation of a Southern California workforce development program created to improve employment and educational services provided to disconnected young adults between 18 and 24; the evaluation includes an outcome study, a quasi-experimental impact study, and a cost-benefit analysis.

“In July 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL), through the Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF), awarded a grant to the Riverside County Economic Development Agency (EDA) in Riverside, California. The purpose of the grant was to implement the Linking Innovation, Knowledge, and Employment (@LIKE) program in three counties in Southern California (Riverside, Imperial, and San Bernardino). Young adults are disconnecting from the education and labor market mainstream at alarming rates. This disconnect has persisted for more than a decade—in part because systems, policies, funding streams, and even advocacy related to adolescents and young adults are obsolete. The architects of @LIKE designed it to address skill gaps and provide educational and employment services to disconnected young adults ages 18­-24. To be ‘disconnected,’ these individuals must have been disconnected from education and employment for at least 90 days, and face one or more of the following barriers: low income, gang involved, ex-offender, public assistance recipient, or recently separated veteran.

The program aims at enabling disconnected individuals to meet educational and labor market goals, remain employed, and increase their earnings. Each county conducts activities according to the program’s three goals: (1) help participants achieve educational and employment goals, (2) create a network through which the consortium members can collaborate to better serve this hard-to-reach population, and (3) develop a service delivery model that can be replicated across the country to improve the lives of disconnected young adults nationwide.

In November 2012, the Riverside County EDA [began]…an evaluation of the @LIKE program. This Final Evaluation Report contains the results of the following: (1) Process Study, (2) Implementation Study, (3) Outcomes Study, (4) Impact Study, and (5) Cost-Benefit Study” (p.0). “The impact evaluation is a quasi-experimental design; Propensity Score Matching was used to form the comparison group” (p.ii).

(Abstractor: Author)

Major Findings & Recommendations

Overall, findings from the @LIKE program show that the program achieved its major goals. @LIKE enabled participants to successfully access services and achieve positive outcomes, even in the case of especially disadvantaged subgroups. Notably, the program’s impacts are large and statistically significant. Finally, a cost-benefit analysis reveals that the measured benefits of the program exceed its measured costs, one year following program completion.

Outcomes Study – a descriptive analysis. The @LIKE program had high rates of program completion, with 45.5 percent deemed successful completers. With respect to the completion of career-oriented training, over 70 percent of participants completed a Career Awareness Component and a substantial share obtained a career credential. Of the individuals who did not have a GED or HS Diploma at program entry, approximately 15 percent obtained one through the program. Finally, a significant share of participants received placement in some form of employment, either a paid internship (about 43 percent) or unsubsidized employment (about 50 percent). Most notably, multiple regression analyses reveal that program-related variables (such as the number of services and program tenure) matter more than demographic and socioeconomic variables, and are positively related to outcome achievement.

Impact Study – causal estimation of program impact. The authors used a quasi-experimental approach to examine the impact of the program on participants’ outcomes. For this analysis, the treatment group consisted of @LIKE participants in Imperial, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. The authors matched these individuals to an equivalent constructed comparison group comprising young adults who participated in WIA/WIOA programs in place in the same counties at the same time. Specifically, holding all else constant, on average, the @LIKE program:

  • Increased the likelihood of obtaining unsubsidized employment by 26.4 percentage points
  • Increased the likelihood of obtaining vocational training by 14.8 percentage points
  • Increased the likelihood of obtaining a high school or GED degree by 4.6 percentage points
  • Increased the likelihood of program completion by 39.7 percentage points – and by 42.3 percentage points excluding individuals who were WIA/WIOA exempt.

Cost-Benefit Analysis: The net benefits amount to $1,449, under the assumption of a social discount rate of 3 percent