Amid keen interest in helping students, young adults, and low-wage workers build the skills necessary to succeed in a technologically advanced economy, MDRC is studying a range of programs that feature employer involvement, such as career pathways from high school into college and the workforce, work-based learning, apprenticeships, and sectoral training.
Current Policy, Prominent Programs, and Evidence
This paper reviews the available evidence supporting various types of career and technical education programs, touching on both the amount of evidence available in each area and its level of rigor.
Even in good economic times, workers with limited education may need help getting or regaining a foothold in the job market. Effective career training programs exist. Approaches that target in-demand industries and closely involve employers can get results, benefiting high school students, adults without diplomas, and long-term unemployed workers.
A growing number of education and workforce programs are implementing “career pathways” strategies to help youth and adults prepare for postsecondary education and quality jobs. This Issue Brief describes the career pathways approach and profiles MDRC projects that shed light on its effectiveness and potential to improve education and career outcomes.
Examples, Evidence, and Prospects
High school reform is increasingly focused on the role of career-technical education (CTE) in preparing all students for success in both college and career. Instead of stand-alone vocational courses, programs that merge CTE, rigorous academics, and career exploration are gaining momentum, but schools need resources and training to implement them.
Evidence on Improving Employment Outcomes for Disadvantaged Youth in the United States
The Great Recession took a toll on the already dim economic prospects of low-income 16- to 24-year-olds who face structural barriers to employment. Evidence indicates that involvement of employers in devising education, training, and work experiences that meet labor market demands should be a key component of any policy response.
Improving the employment outlook of disadvantaged young people on a large scale will require a stronger focus on engaging private employers on potential solutions. On June 4, 2014, MDRC and The Rockefeller Foundation convened a group of experts to discuss such demand-driven approaches.
The Youth Transition Demonstration identified and tested service strategies, combined with waivers of certain Social Security Administration program rules to enhance work incentives, to help youth with disabilities maximize their economic self-sufficiency as they transition to adulthood.
Evidence from Promising Programs
A review of high-quality studies, this paper highlights interventions — in education, employment and training, and second-chance programs — that have demonstrated positive results for young men of color. It comes as policymakers and philanthropies focus new attention on investing more to build opportunities for these young men.
The Youth Transition Demonstration, led by Mathematica Policy Research, MDRC, and TransCen, Inc., is developing and evaluating strategies to help youth with disabilities transition from school to work. The Broadened Horizons program had positive impacts on paid employment and income but no effect on school enrollment or high school completion.