Engaging Disconnected Young People in Education and Work



YouthBuild, which is currently the subject of an MDRC random assignment study, is a

national youth and community development program in which low-income young people ages

16 to 24 (often high school dropouts) are grouped in cohorts of 30 to 40 and receive a variety of

services, including financial supports, for 8 to 12 months. Participants spend at least 50 percent

of their work week 31 engaged in an array of educational services (high school equivalency, high

school, or college preparation). Participants generally spend most of the remaining time in job

skills training — primarily building or rehabilitating housing for low-income or homeless people.

The program also involves a “mental toughness” orientation that screens for motivation,

other assessments, leadership training and community service, counseling and support services,

job placement, and follow-up services.

Other programs of varying intensity serve similarly disadvantaged populations. For example,

the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program is an intensive residential program that

serves high school dropouts, ages 16 to18, who are drug free and not heavily involved with the

criminal justice system. 32 The program includes education, community service, mentoring, and

other components in a quasi-military setting. A recent random assignment study by MDRC

found that participation in ChalleNGe increased rates of GED certificate or high school diploma

receipt, college credit receipt, and employment and earnings. 33

Other examples include Roca in Massachusetts and Larkin Street in San Francisco,

which serve particularly high-risk youth (such as those who are homeless, gang members, or

young parents). The needs of some youth are so great that program staff may have to triage services

before addressing academic or employment-related outcomes. 34 These programs, which

provide high-intensity wraparound services for several years, offer a range of housing options,

education, technology and employment training, health care, and case management.

In contrast to other aspects of Project Rise, there is little precedent of explicitly marketing

an education-conditioned internship, although there are several examples of programs integrating

education with work experiences (such as with YouthBuild and Job Corps). An early

example is the Youth Incentive Entitlement Pilot Projects, which operated in the late 1970s.

This demonstration tested the feasibility and effectiveness of guaranteeing part-time and summer

jobs for 16- to 19-year-olds, conditioned on school attendance and meeting academic and

job performance standards. The young people involved were either out of school or still in high

school at the time of the program intervention. An MDRC evaluation found large, short-term

31 Each YouthBuild program had slightly different schedules but all scheduled at least 30 hours of program

services each week.

32 Bloom, Gardenhire-Crooks, and Mandsager (2009).

33 Millenky, Bloom, Muller-Ravett, and Broadus (2011).

34 Bloom, Levy, and Ivry (2010).


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