The purpose of this report is to explore implementation of Youth CareerConnect (YCC) about two years after funding began. The report draws information from five sources: (1) a grantee survey describing YCC as it was implemented in one of its schools, (2) grantees’ quarterly progress report narratives, (3) visits to 10 grantees, (4) YCC’s Participant Tracking System, and (5) a survey of parents and students in YCC in eight of the grantees visited.

Youth CareerConnect (YCC) grants were awarded to help prepare students for job openings in industries such as health care, advanced manufacturing, and financial services that rely often on the H-1B visa program to hire foreign workers when skilled domestic workers are not available. The Department of Labor (DOL) uses the fees that companies pay for each worker hired under the H-1B program to establish grant programs such as YCC to fund job training and education for U.S. citizens to upgrade their skills.

Required YCC program elements include the following:

  • A career focus in selected high-growth H-1B industries or occupations in the local labor market - An integrated academic and career-focused curriculum aligned with the state’s college and career-readiness standards and students’ chosen career focus that allows students to follow a pathway to an industry-recognized credential, including a postsecondary degree;
  • Strong partnerships and engagement with employers aimed at ensuring that students complete YCC with an industry-recognized credential, and the skills needed for work;
  • Work-based learning (WBL) and exposure to the world of work for hands-on career development experiences that connect classroom instruction to work and career opportunities;
  • Individualized career and academic counseling that includes developing and regularly updating an Individual Development Plan (IDP) that addresses postsecondary preparation and career objectives;
  • A small learning community that provides students with needed supports; and
  • Professional development to provide teachers and other professional staff with the knowledge and skills needed to develop the core curricula and support services that can guide students to a career in the chosen career focus area.

Major Findings & Recommendations

Results from this implementation study suggest that YCC programs serve a diverse group of students. The grantees were spread throughout the continental United States and Puerto Rico and offered programs in 131 high schools across 75 school districts. Youth CareerConnect (YCC) participants were racially and ethnically diverse (44 percent Hispanic, 22 percent black, 52 percent white), nearly half qualified for free or reduced-price lunch, and slightly more than half were male (56 percent). The research suggests that grantees implemented activities and services in each of the three main program components: preparing students for both college and career, connecting students to career-track employment, and offering academic and non-academic supports.

Grantees actively integrated partners, especially employers, into YCC and used work-based learning activities, small learning communities, and students’ Individual Development Plans to distinguish YCC from other programs. Some grantees faced challenges in launching the more intensive work-based learning activities—particularly mentoring and internships—that require considerable advanced planning and coordination with employers and other partners. Because such activities are often offered in the later high school years, future research will be able to assess if they become more readily available as a greater number of YCC students become eligible for them.

These results suggest grantees were successful in the early stages of structuring their programs and implementing services in all of the key program areas, laying the foundation for more fully implementing YCC programs over the rest of the grant period. Future products from the implementation study will provide updated findings and identify implementation practices that appear promising for scaling and replication. Findings from the implementation study will also be used to interpret results of a study that will estimate the impact of YCC on interim student outcomes and determine if impacts vary by student subgroups, based on student characteristics and program experiences.