Panel: Learning Together: Building Evidence to Close the Opportunity Gap for Low-Income Youth
(Employment and Training Programs)

Friday, November 3, 2017: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
Acapulco (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  David Fein, Abt Associates, Inc.
Panel Chairs:  Thomas Brock, Institute of Education Sciences
Discussants:  Harry Holzer, Georgetown University

In this session, we present early findings and describe experience with a vibrant evaluation partnership focusing on Year Up—one of the nation’s foremost programs for low-income youth. The partnership involves a close collaboration between Year Up and researchers at Abt Associates and the University of Pennsylvania. Several federally-funded projects anchor this work, including a large random assignment study of Year Up’s stand-alone core program (part of HHS’s Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education/PACE evaluation) and two studies of Year Up’s Professional Training Corps—which adapts the core model for college settings to enhance scalability (Institute for Education Sciences and Social Innovation Fund).  Interest in evidence-building across generations of the Year Up model is justified by new findings from PACE showing substantial positive impacts for the core program. 

Year Up’s core program serves about 2,000 young adults (aged 18-24) a year through offices in eight major urban areas.  It provides six months of customized training in high-demand fields (e.g., IT, business operations), followed by a six-month internship in a high-level professional setting. The program provides a comprehensive array of supports and insists on high expectations. Employer payments for interns finance over half of the $28,290 average cost per student.

The program is one of nine sites in PACE—a major national randomized controlled trials (RCT) evaluation of approaches to developing career pathways for low-income youth and adults. The PACE evaluation is using “career pathways” as a framework for situating and guiding measurement and analysis across varying program models.

Year Up’s next-generation Professional Training Corps (PTC) model leverages college facilities and instructional capacity to reduce Year Up’s marginal costs, expand recruitment avenues, and access training in a wider array of fields. A financial goal is to reach or exceed the break-even point at which employer payments cover Year Up’s costs in operating the program. The program’s rapid spread to over 12 colleges in the past five years attests to its strong dissemination potential.

Our research on the PTC model is blending improvement science with impact evaluation. Continuity in research teams from the original to adapted versions of the Year Up program has helped to ground this work in a thorough understanding of the model and issues involved in scaling. Lessons from this successful experience with collaboration also should interest policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and funders more broadly.

This research has reached an important stage, with the first report on core program impacts scheduled for release early in the fall and the reaching of key milestones in PTC research.

See more of: Employment and Training Programs
See more of: Panel