Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Youth Summer Jobs Programs: Aligning Ends and Means

This week we’re bringing you a guest post from Martha Ross, a fellow at the Brooking Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. Her newest paper Youth Summer Jobs Programs: Aligning Ends and Means, which she co-authors with Richard Kazis, takes an important look at the intentions and outcomes of summer youth employment programs from a national perspective. Read on for highlights of their work!

Summer jobs programs for youth have experienced an upsurge of investment since the 2007-2009 recession and the associated spikes in unemployment among young people. The well-documented drop in teen and young adult employment rates has raised concerns that it is becoming more difficult for young people to find pathways into the labor market, particularly for African-American and Latino teens living in neighborhoods with fewer job opportunities. Summer jobs programs offer a paycheck, employment experiences, and other organized activities in the service of multiple goals: increasing participants’ income, developing young people’s skills and networks to improve their job prospects, and offering constructive activities to promote positive behavior. The District of Columbia is one of a handful of jurisdictions that retained their summer jobs programs after the loss of dedicated federal funding in the late 1990s with the passage of the Workforce Investment Act.
Summer jobs programs are often one of the most high-profile youth initiatives of a given jurisdiction.  They typically last about six weeks and provide work opportunities to teens and young adults who otherwise might struggle to find jobs. Recent research finds that summer jobs programs have positive effects: reducing violence, incarceration, and mortality and improving academic outcomes.
But a strong program does not automatically follow from good intentions. Program design and implementation carry the day and determine the results. Although the research is encouraging, it is not robust enough to support generalized statements about program effectiveness, and it has not yet conclusively linked summer jobs programs to improved employment outcomes.
Summer jobs programs are complex endeavors to design and deliver within a very compressed time frame. No matter how dedicated the organization and staff operating the program, the demands of recruiting, assessing, placing, monitoring, and paying so many young people at one time are significant. In the absence of agreed-upon standards and best practices, quality is likely to vary considerably—both between cities and within a city, depending on the worksite or partner organization helping to run the program.
In a new paper, Youth Summer Jobs Programs: Aligning Ends and Means, my co-author Richard and Kazis and I assert that we need better answers to some fundamental questions: how much should we reasonably expect from a summer jobs program? For whom are the impacts the greatest? What are the critical program elements to improve a young person’s skills and job prospects?
Based on interviews and a scan of the literature, we identified a core set of practices that support high-quality programs, divided into two categories.
Program design
  • Recruiting employers and worksites and sustaining their participation to provide the maximum number of job opportunities.
  • Matching young people with age- and skill-appropriate opportunities, differentiating by age, work readiness, and youth interests so that no one goes to a workplace unprepared to succeed.

  • Preparing young people to succeed and learn new skills by providing training and professional development on work readiness and other topics, including financial capability.

  • Supporting youth and supervisors to maximize learning and development by structuring the job placement and monitoring progress over the summer to address problems that arise and provide guidance to supervisors on working with young people.

  • Connecting the summer program to other educational, employment, and youth development services so that the summer program both feeds into and draws from other community resources.

Capacity and infrastructure

  • Ensuring sufficient staff capacity and capability to deliver critical program elements at a high level of quality, executing with clear roles, sufficient staff training, and coordination across partner organizations.

  • Deploying information technologies to improve program management and communication among partners and participants, including information management systems to streamline enrollment and job matching and to strengthen tracking and evaluation.

  • Simplifying coordination and strengthening training through partnership management tools, such as sample job descriptions and assessment tools that help structure the work experience and support youth and worksite supervisors.

We concluded that it is harder than most people think to run a high-quality summer youth employment program and to measure progress towards the goal of helping young people improve their skills and job prospects. We also concluded that it is both easy and unwise to expect too much of a summer jobs program, especially for the most vulnerable and unprepared young people, who typically need more intensive and longer-term services. Ideally, the current wave of energy and investments in summer jobs programs around the country will inspire and empower cities to step back from the day-to-day management of a summer jobs program and assess their program design and organizational capacity against the ultimate goal:  helping young people succeed in their communities and in the workplace.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Back to School!

As youth and their families all over DC prepare to head back to their classrooms (and for students in 10 DC Public Schools, they're already back), we thought we'd post some back-to-school tips.

Safe Track
DC Public Schools released a document to highlight the impact of WMATA's Safe Track plan on the ability of students to get to school in a timely fashion. And while the document highlights which schools each "Surge" could affect, between updates to Safe Track since it began as well as varying ways in which schools are accommodating students that are adversely affected, we recommend student parents, guardians, and caregivers reach out directly to understand how each school will handle any effects Safe Track may have on a student's attendance and punctuality, despite alternative planning for transportation.

School Supplies Drives
Keep an eye out for a drive to collect school supplies in your neighborhood and even your workplace. In the building where our offices are located, there's a drive to support our neighbors, the students at Thomson Elementary School.

Not sure where to start? Check out DCPS' site on how you can give directly to a school near you.

DC Hunger Solutions is a great resource. They include information about the School Breakfast and Lunch Programs, as well as After School Suppers and Snacks options.

In addition to guiding visitors to these programs, they also have robust advocacy and informational resources on their website.

Out of School Time
As you may know, DCPS will be offering Out of School Time (OST) programs in 53 schools this school year. A number of our member organizations also offer OST programs throughout the year.

If you are considering enrichment activities for your youth, don't just check out either of the two links above, but please reach out to  us if you would like to be engaged in our OST advocacy efforts, as well.

DC Re-Engagement Center
For some of our older youth from 16 to 24 years old, the DC Re-Engagement Center is a great resource to connect them to. They provide support and services for DC youth who are not enrolled in school or other educational programs and who do not have a high school diploma or credential.

As we enter this final stretch of the summer, we hope you all stay cool and stay hydrated. We hope some of the links above are helpful and please share them forward!

- Your friends at DCAYA

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

International Youth Day is this Friday!

Friday August 12th is the United Nations annual International Youth Day. While we’d say youth resolution 54/120 and the World Programme for Youth, which in 1999 laid the groundwork for what has become an ambitious  policy framework with clear guidelines for national action and support to significantly improve the conditions and outcomes of youth.
should be celebrated every day, we have to agree with the UN that this Friday is a pretty important one.  International Youth Day highlights the UN’s adoption of

With 1.8 billion young people worldwide, a focus on improving their wellbeing and outcomes is an understandable area of focus for the United Nations. As they put it, while “never before have there been so many young people" (Huge potential for economic growth...), at the same time "never before has the transition from youth to adulthood been so burdened by challenges, yet so blessed by opportunities" (Democracy, Youth, and the United Nations).

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Leading the Way in Youth Workforce Development!

Last week, DCAYA and our partners at the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) celebrated the graduation of fourteen local professionals from our Youth Workforce Leaders Academy (YWLA). The Academy has run for two years now, and was developed with the support of the Community Foundation’s Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative where the Foundation and a dozen other philanthropic partners are co-investing in programs throughout the Washington region that focus on building local residents’ literacy and workforce skills to support their movement toward greater economic security. Also central to the success of the Academy, YWLA session topic areas and materials were based on the IEL-led National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth’s (NCWD/Youth) Youth Service Professionals’ Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities professional development initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

A year-long learning community, YWLA enables DC youth workforce development providers from the nonprofit and government sectors to further their skills, and bolster their organizations with deeper knowledge and resources. Over 10 monthly sessions, the Academy explored the following tenets of high-quality youth workforce development programming: Youth Rights & Policies, Youth Development & Youth Voice, Program Design and Delivery, Career Exploration, Workforce Preparation, Assessment & Individualized Planning, Employer Engagement, Collaboration & Partnership, and Engaging Families. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Youth Voice: Make the Wilson Building Work for You(th)

This week, we're sharing the perspective of Henry Eisler, a youth participant in Mikva Challenge DC who is spending his summer writing a blog to elevate the voices of DC youth and inspire them to play an active role in the District's political system. We thank Henry and Mikva Challenge DC for their contribution to this blog!

There is a building on Pennsylvania Avenue that influences the life of every young person living in Washington, DC every day. In this building, elected officials govern, pass legislation, and make monumental decisions that determine the way the entire city functions. This building, despite what you may have been thinking, is not the White House; this is the John A. Wilson building, home to the City Council of the District of Columbia. This City Council is a group of accomplished men and women who craft and pass the laws and regulations that determine the manner in which the city operates and its residents may act. 

Introduction to the Work of the Council

As the DC City Council quickly works to finalize a budget for the new term (Fall 2016), their focus is beginning to shift towards an improved education platform that will have positive effects on young people across the city. The Council’s Committee on Education, chaired by Councilman David Grosso, has been increasingly pushing the addition of education reforms to the 2017 budget deal. These reforms primarily aim to expand school reading and library projects, support nutritional health and on-campus medical aid programs, and lower rates of truancy in schools throughout the District.