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Youth CareerConnect: Early Implementation Findings
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) created the Youth CareerConnect (YCC) program, a high school–based program aimed at improving the college and career readiness of young adults. DOL awarded $107 million in four-year grants to 24 applicants that planned to bring together a group of community partners—including local education agencies, institutions of higher education, employers, the workforce development system, and support service organizations—to tailor YCC to their local employment market. YCC was designed to include a career focus in a high-growth H-1B industry, employer partnerships and engagement, integrated academic and career curricula, work-based learning and exposure to the world of work, individualized career and academic counseling, small learning communities, and professional development.
The purpose of this report is to explore implementation of 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 8 of the grantees visited. Through descriptive analysis of these data sources, the report addresses five research questions:
- What types of students does YCC serve?
- What program components are being implemented?
- What distinguishes YCC from other programs?
- What challenges do grantees face in implementing YCC, and how do they overcome those challenges?
- How do grantees plan to sustain the program beyond the grant period?
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. 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 nonacademic 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.