WIOA Provides Opportunity for Partnership to Serve Out of School Youth

This blog is cross-posted from the WorkforceGPS site, see https://youth.workforcegps.org/blog/general/2017/01/18/15/08/EdLaborPartnership.  

WIOA places heightened emphasis on the alignment of programs that serve out-of-school youth in order to ensure they obtain the skills necessary to prepare for successful workforce participation and continued educational achievement.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed into law on July 22, 2014, presents a unique opportunity for collaboration among the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the U.S. Department of Education (ED), States, local workforce development areas, other workforce and education partners, as well as social service providers, in order to improve the lives of our nation’s out-of-school youth (OSY).  WIOA places heightened emphasis on the alignment of programs that serve out-of-school youth in order to ensure they obtain the skills necessary to prepare for successful workforce participation and continued educational achievement.

For many years, the adult education program, administered by ED and authorized under title II of WIOA, has reconnected older OSY with the educational system and equipped them with the foundational skills to pursue postsecondary education, training, and meaningful work.  The formula youth program, administered by DOL and authorized under title I of WIOA, requires that 75 percent of funds be used on services for OSY, which will assist young adults in obtaining the necessary skills, including high school diplomas, to prepare for and complete postsecondary education and training and achieve high levels of career readiness.  More than 5.5 million youth between the ages of 16 and 24 without a high school diploma or an equivalent are neither in school nor employed.  By working together, State and local workforce and education partners can maximize the potential of these young adults through implementing evidence-based practices to support the successful achievement of their educational and career goals.

To facilitate these efforts, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education (Departments) are releasing a technical assistance document that:

  • provide strategies and examples of State and local partnerships that facilitate the reengagement of OSY;
  • support communities working with in-school youth in accordance with WIOA; and
  • address strategies for serving out-of-school English learners, current and former foster youth, and justice-involved youth.

Along with the technical assistance on OSY, additional documents may be distributed among all potential partners that serve youth and young adults.  The technical assistance documents are available:

The technical assistance provided in these documents offers a number of examples of ways in which different partners can work together to build career pathways that are a combination of rigorous and high-quality education, training, and support services that align with local skill needs and prepare youth and young adults to be successful in secondary or postsecondary education programs and the labor market.

Ultimately, long-term success for OSY will require engagement beyond the scope of workforce and education agencies.  It takes the engagement of entire communities to catalyze change and create multiple pathways to facilitate education, career, and lifelong success.  These discussions, therefore, must include businesses, colleges and universities, State and district superintendents, teachers and other youth service providers, community-based organizations, local social service agencies, and families and youth themselves.

We hope this technical assistance series will support creative and impactful youth-focused strategies and be a resource in engaging these diverse partners in this important work.  Together we will strengthen our nation’s workforce by supporting the nation’s youth in graduating from secondary and postsecondary education programs, participating successfully in career pathways, and achieving their career goals.

A First Job Can Change a Life

Photo of Secretary King seated to the right of panelists at the #FirstJob Compact summit

Secretary King moderates a panel at the #FirstJob Compact summit

“During my time with young people… I was able to teach them skills and, hopefully, show them that their contributions – their skills, their experiences, their imaginations – are valuable. A sense of possibility can make all the difference for an individual and for a community,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary John King at the First Job Compact Implementation Convening.

Yesterday, Secretary King provided opening remarks and facilitated a panel with youth and employers at the First Job Compact Implementation Convening. This is the second convening of its kind that seeks to establish best practices and strategies for enabling Opportunity Youth— youth ages 16-24 who are out-of-work and out-of-school—to obtain their first job. Over 100 human resources and talent leaders, as well as non-profits and agency colleagues, gathered to discuss these strategies and how to make them part of their company’s business plan.

Secretary King also announced that the U.S. Department of Education(ED), in consultation with the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development, intends to provide technical assistance funding to help public housing authorities connect youth who have aged out of the foster care system with high quality career and technical education programs. Through this investment, ED hopes to assist career and technical education programs to better meet the needs of current and former foster youth. The project also seeks to improve coordination among the child welfare system and other federal programs.

About one in seven young people between the ages of 16-24 are either not in school or not working. These individuals are known as Opportunity Youth. The unemployment rate for individuals 16-24 sits at 11 percent and is even higher among African-American and Latino youth (22 percent and 12 percent respectively). Early in the Obama Administration, the White House convened corporations to encourage companies to create pathways for Opportunity Youth to gain their first job. Additionally, in President Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address, he announced the importance of creating an economy that works better for everybody, including a plan for Opportunity Youth to gain the work experience, skills, and networks that come from having a job. This effort will not only change the lives of youth and communities across the country, but it will also create and build a sustainable and resilient workforce.

Yesterday’s convening included companies such as Gap and Chipotle, who signed on to the First Job Compact. Through a series of engaging panels, corporations share best practices needed to move this work forward. These companies understand that the Compact’s objectives are mutually beneficial to their companies and the youth it serves. Companies often report that young people struggle to find jobs because they lack basic workplace skills and behaviors. By committing to a set of best practices to hire and support these youth, companies will be able to identify and leverage the vital skills and backgrounds these youth bring to the job and in turn increase their interview to hire ratio, retention rate, speed to promotion, and engagement scores to meet company goals. For almost a decade, Gap has engaged in This Way Ahead, which is a paid life skills and internship program that helps low-income youth land a first job at our Old Navy, Gap, and Banana Republic stores.

Through strong collaboration, industry and government will remain committed to reconnecting Opportunity Youth to education and workforce opportunities. Recently, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a report “Work-based Learning for Youth at Risk: Getting Employers on Board” which aims to tackle the common challenge to growing youth job training by establishing the idea that employers first need to see work-based learning as a way to help their business. Read more about this report and further analysis in this blog by New America.

It is clear this this issue has already stirred national interest. President Obama recently released a fact sheet on innovative ways to fund the First Job initiative. In conjunction with ED’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), the Administration has engaged in a #FirstJob Skills Campaign which seeks to leverage social media and celebrities to connect youth to educational resources to help improve their employability skills. As a part of these efforts, OCTAE released a fact sheet entitled Employability Skills: Supporting Opportunity Youth to Be Successful in Their First Job. This administration firmly believes that these efforts will strengthen our workforce, grow our economy, and change lives.

Work-Based Learning: A Promising Strategy for Re-engaging Opportunity Youth

For nearly a decade, the U. S. has partnered with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to conduct reviews of various issues pertaining to career and technical education (CTE). Our efforts with OECD have enabled us to benchmark ourselves against other countries, as well as learn about international policies and practices that we might consider to improve the educational and employment outcomes for our nation’s youth and adults.

Building on our prior work, in July 2015, we again partnered with OECD—this time, on the topic of work-based learning. We were interested in this topic because we acknowledge the importance and promise of work-based learning as a way to re-engage youth, equip them with the skills that are in demand in the labor market, and connect them to potential employers.

The benefits of work-based learning are particularly important for at-risk youth as these individuals are most likely to face difficulties in connecting to the labor market and accessing good learning opportunities. At-risk youth are defined as young people who are not—or are at risk of not—working or being in school. In the U. S., there are roughly 5.5 million teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school. This translates to one in seven teens and young adults. In OECD countries, there are around 40 million at risk youth. These numbers, while incredibly discouraging, present a tremendous opportunity for retooling our nation’s CTE programs and scaling up promising practices such as work-based learning to address the needs of our nation’s most vulnerable students.

OECD’s work-based learning project was designed for three purposes:

  1. Synthesize the evidence on how the benefits of work-based learning might be more fully exploited to achieve better economic and social outcomes;
  2. Document global experience of developments and innovations in policy and practice; and
  3. Deliver key policy messages on those foundations.

Eight other countries participated in the study—Australia, Canada, the European Commission, Germany, Norway, Scotland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom.

On December 7, 2016, the OECD reported the results of their U. S. review, as documented in Work-Based Learning for Youth at Risk: Getting Employers on Board. The report identifies a number of policy recommendations including encouraging and offering financial resources for pre-apprenticeships; providing remediation, mentoring, and coaching to support apprentices complete their training; and offering targeted training for apprenticeship supervisors to help them succeed. The full report can be found in the OECD iLibrary.

To further help employers work with youth, the Department released Employability Skills Fact Sheet and Resources: Supporting Opportunity Youth to Be Successful in Their First Job. This fact sheet outlines five easy steps that employers can take to help youth gain employability skills that employers are looking for and that are necessary for youth to be successful in the labor market at all levels and in all sectors. The Fact Sheet is available on the Perkins Collaborative Resource Network.

Posted by
Director, Division of Academic and Technical Education

Performance Partnership Pilots: An Opportunity to Improve Outcomes for Disconnected Youth

Federal agencies have released a second call for bold proposals to improve education, employment, and other key outcomes for disconnected youth.

Over five million 14-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. are out of school and not working. In many cases, they face the additional challenges including being low-income, homeless, in foster care, or involved in the justice system. In response, seven federal agencies are jointly inviting state, local, and tribal communities to apply to become a Performance Partnership Pilot (P3) to test innovative, outcome-focused strategies to achieving better outcomes for these youth, as well as youth at risk of becoming disconnected from critical social institutions and supports.

The P3 initiative allows pilots to receive customized flexibility from the participating agencies—including the U.S. Departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and now also the U.S. Department of Justice—to overcome barriers and align program and reporting requirements across programs. This flexibility enables communities to pursue the most innovative and effective ways to use their existing funds to improve outcomes for the neediest youth.

In October 2015, the Department of Education announced the first round of nine pilots on behalf of all the participating agencies. From supporting youth moms and their young children with a two-generation approach to helping foster care youth transition successfully from high school to college and career, these pilots will serve a total of roughly 10,000 disconnected youth. For example, the City of Indianapolis will be providing comprehensive, concentrated, and coordinated services to low-income, disconnected youth ages 14 through 24 who reside within two public housing communities that are located in the city’s Opportunity Zone, a collective impact initiative modeled on the Northside Achievement Zone in Minneapolis, MN. The Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, a local workforce development board, is also implementing a collective impact model to improve outcomes for youth. It will be working with Partners for Education at Berea College, and the Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone to provide services and activities to address the needs of 1,000 disconnected youth in the rural Southeastern Kentucky Promise Zone.

This second round of pilots offers up to 10 communities the opportunity to propose bold new ideas for how they would use P3 flexibility to transform the way they deliver services and improve outcomes for their disconnected youth.

Stakeholders on the front lines of service delivery have let us know that flexibility, such as better aligning the multiple systems that serve youth, is sometimes needed to achieve powerful outcomes. P3 responds directly to these challenges by offering broad new flexibility in exchange for better outcomes.

This round of P3 includes several priorities to test this authority in diverse environments across America and support broader learning in the field. For example, acknowledging the diverse needs of communities, the competition allows separate categories of consideration for applicants that propose to serve disconnected youth in rural communities, in tribal communities, or in communities that recently have experienced civil unrest. In addition, applicants can earn bonus points in the selection process by proposing to rigorously evaluate at least one component of their pilot, proposing to implement work-based learning opportunities, or proposing projects that would specifically serve youth who are neither employed nor in school.

A competition for a third round of up to 10 pilots is expected to be released in the summer of 2016. This will provide another opportunity for communities that need more time to collaborate and prepare their best proposals. Additionally, this third competition round will permit communities to use their Continuum of Care and Emergency Solutions Grants Program funds, funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in the pilots.

To hear representatives from Federal agencies present the details of the recently released Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) on P3, including application requirements and selection criteria, please register and join us for the P3 National Webinar on May 9th at 1PM ET. Registration information is available at www.youth.gov/P3.

21, 23, or 26? Rethinking Eligibility for Youth Who Have Aged Out of Foster Care

Good health is really important. That is why we all need access to health care we can afford. Regardless of our age. Up until January 2014, foster youth over the age of 18 did not have that access. It was at that time that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required states to provide Medicaid coverage for foster youth until they turned 26, as long as they were in foster care and receiving Medicaid at age 18. This was a huge step forward.

Photo of Isabel Soto

As a biological sister to siblings who aged out of foster care, I know all too well that eighteen is too young an age for many youth and young adults to be without financial, social, and emotional support. Having been adopted, I, like many youth, was not suddenly expected to be fully independent and entirely self-reliant the day I turned eighteen.
– Isabel Soto

Still, foster youth need more. The needs of foster youth are no different than the needs of other youth or young adults. We should make sure youth who age out of foster care can access the same services and supports our own young adult children can until they are stable and on their feet. In fact, data show that a growing number of young adults are living with their parents well into their thirties. And, recent U.S. Census data show that 18- to 34-year olds are less likely to be living on their own today than they were during the Great Recession.

Parents of young adults make sure their kids have continued care and support as they mature, pursue a higher education, or test the job market in search of their first or that next better paying job. So why aren’t we ensuring the same for foster youth or youth who have aged out of the foster care system? This makes no sense.

The good news is that several states are thinking about this and are taking steps to extend benefits and services, other than health care, beyond age 18. Today, almost every state has extended benefits to foster youth past the age of 18 and up to age 21 with federal Title IV-E funding. However, not all states are alike in the way they treat this issue. Two states have extended foster care services for youth up to age 19, two states to age 20, forty-two states to age 21, one state to age 21 ½, two states to age 22, and one state to age 23. These differences are causing some new challenges. Medicaid coverage, for example, is not transportable for many young people who move out of state and we know very little about the number of states that offer coverage to out-of-state youths today. Again, these differences in access make no sense.

Over the last couple of years, our colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services and our team have had quite a few opportunities to talk with and listen to both current and former foster youth. We heard their stories. We learned about their dreams. We learned about the many obstacles standing in the way of them achieving those dreams. From these conversations, we have concluded that these are reasonable next steps to ensure improved career and life trajectories for foster youth:

  • Youth in transition from foster care are often left to navigate their instantaneous life as independents alone. Policies and programs designed to assist this population accomplish little to nothing if foster youth do not know such services are available. For this reason, it is critical to first ensure that current and former foster youth are made aware of and able to access the resources available to them.
  • It is essential to have child welfare and education related staff and relevant community partners trained to help youth gain access to available supports that will help them transition to independent living.” Further, it is important that they know how to help youth access and maintain safe and stable housing, transportation, financial resources, and access to postsecondary education and career opportunities.

States are the entities deciding whether to extend benefits to foster care services for youth to 21, 23, and beyond. States are the entities that will decide to offer coverage to out-of-state youths. We realize it may take states some time to get there. The important thing is that we continue to work together at the national, state, local, and tribal levels to extend services for these youth well into their twenties and to ensure all services are transportable from state to state.

There are approximately 20,000-25,000 youth who emancipate every year. These young adults face more obstacles as they transition to adulthood such as homelessness, unemployment, difficulty accessing postsecondary education, and financial instability. This does not have to and should not be the case.

Johan E. Uvin is the Deputy Assistant Secretary (delegated the duties of Assistant Secretary) for Career, Technical and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education

Isabel Soto is a former foster youth and Confidential Assistant in the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education

Photo of Johan Uvin
Posted by
Deputy Assistant Secretary, OCTAE
Photo of Isabel Soto
Posted by
Confidential Assistant, OCTAE

After Finals, Foster Youth Students Face a Much More Difficult Test

As winter break unwinds and college students are at home for the holidays, many homeless and foster care students find themselves scrambling for somewhere to live until classes resume in January. College campuses traditionally close down for winter break. For these vulnerable students their college campus is their home, their community and a primary source of security. While their peers are headed home to see family and catch up with old friends, many of these young people are faced with bleak prospects for the holiday season.

These vulnerable youth face the same struggles as other young people trying to maintain good grades, navigating social peer groups, and planning their futures, but they face the additional burdens associated with little to no adult guidance or support. Fortunately, higher education professionals across our nation have begun to tackle the unique issues faced by homeless and foster care students. They are developing comprehensive strategies to address the most persistent barriers these students face; not just during the holiday season, but all year long.

“Higher education can be the silver bullet to achieving long-term health, housing, and economic security. And for young people who have already overcome so much adversity just to earn a seat in a college classroom, they should have every opportunity—inside and outside of the classroom—to succeed” says Jasmine Hayes, Policy Director for the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Ensuring these youth have a safe, stable place to call home in-between semesters is critical. Keeping student housing open and available for youth experiencing homelessness during semester breaks is an effective approach.”

Programs in states like Colorado and North Carolina have implemented Single Points of Contact (SPOCs) in their postsecondary institutions which provide these students access to designated college administrators who are committed to helping them to successfully navigate the college-going process. States and higher education institutions across the country are also working to address the issues these students face, including

  • access to higher education opportunities and financial support;
  • navigation of the college-going process, including financial aid and service referral processes; and
  • basic needs like employment, housing and food.

These efforts are ensuring these most vulnerable students reach their highest potential.

Colleges can play a pivotal role in supporting the academic success of these students. Just ask for foster youth, Alain Datcher. “Entering college as a first time student was a daunting experience. It was a mixture of culture shock, academic rigor and rapid growth. I don’t believe I would have succeeded without the support network I had in one woman – Tamara Malone. She was a mentor, academic advisor, dean and more in one caring, compassionate woman.” When asked how he thought his experience could translate for other students who are homeless or in foster care he replied, “Proximity will define opportunity for these young people. Having a close, approachable, and tangible support network will make the difference. It did in my college education at Biola University. I’ll be earning a Master’s of Public Policy degree in April. Having one caring, single point of contact in Tamra is a big reason why I will.”

When educators act, they change lives. If you know of a foster youth student in your institution, be proactive and reach out. It can make all the difference. Find out more at http://findyouthinfo.gov/.

Guest bloggers: Annie Blackledge, Casey Family Programs Senior Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education, and Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for OCTAE.

ED Working to Reduce Barriers to Postsecondary Access and Persistence for Students from Foster Care

Late last week, Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier issued a “Dear Colleague letter” to Financial Aid Administrators. This letter clarifies that extended foster care payments made by a state directly to foster youth are to be excluded when determining a student’s student aid eligibility and do not need to be reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  “Our intent is to reduce barriers in the financial aid process for students in foster care to ensure they are able to maximize their student aid benefits”, said Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier. “We know these students face many challenges as they transition into adulthood—and the financial aid process should not be one of them.”

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