Conrad Career Associates
- Catholic Charities Los Angeles, California
"Protecting and empowering the next generation is essential to a just society.…Our youth programs for low-income, at-risk children and teens provide a positive structure and learning opportunities and activities that enhance their education, foster creativity and brighten their horizons."
High schoolers from California have an 83.6% 4-year graduation rate, according to the most recent data. A high school diploma serves as a gateway to post-secondary education and/or a stable job. The 16.7% of students who don’t graduate within four years do not have access to the same opportunities as their peers.
Higher levels of education correspond to higher wages, which in turn correspond to improved measures of well-being. Furthermore, some students who complete high school education still face barriers when entering the workforce. For example, youth who are living in poverty, who are experiencing homelessness, whose parents have lower levels of education, and those who are pregnant or parenting all face barriers that can make it more difficult for them to transition to the workforce.
Workforce development programs — which may include skills and job training, introductory work experience, or community college classes — are a potential solution to these obstacles. Rigorous analysis has found evidence in support of the effectiveness of such programs. But the barriers to employment often go beyond workforce preparedness.
There is no evidence from randomized evaluation about the effectiveness of supplemental workforce development. Early research suggests that holistic support, with factors like housing and social relationships, might help youth in their employment transition. Life gets in the way of education and employment for many youth, even when they are equipped with baseline workforce preparedness skills.
More evidence is needed to know precisely what services will improve outcomes for youth facing obstacles outside the classroom.
Catholic Charities of Los Angeles (CCLA) provides workforce development services to youth who are facing barriers to employment through a 12-month program called Archdiocesan Youth Employment Services (AYE). Youth are considered to have successfully completed AYE if they are entering post-secondary education, employment, apprenticeships, or military service. However, CCLA believes that many AYE participants would benefit from additional support after those 12 months.
To provide this support, CCLA will offer the Conrad Career Associates program to AYE graduates for 3 years after program graduation. Services offered include help finding housing, connection to education, assistance with the cost of education, support in developing life skills, help making a career plan, and more.
This holistic support program is designed to bridge the gap between high school graduation and successful entry into post-secondary education or the workforce. Supporting youth in the transition to full economic participation can lead to significant benefits for the youth and their communities.
What is the effect of providing additional supportive services to youth exiting Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programming on outcomes such as earnings and employment, housing stability, financial health, education, community engagement, and overall well-being?
- Participants in the Conrad Career Associates program will earn higher incomes, have stable housing, and improve their financial health.
- Youth who receive additional supportive services will engage with their community through volunteerism and report higher levels of physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Research Study Design
The Conrad Career Associates study is a randomized evaluation.
After successfully graduating from the 12-month Archdiocesan Youth Employment Services (AYE) program, CCLA will inform participants about the Conrad Career Associates program. If they are interested, they can attend an information session about the additional services available.
CCLA only has funding to provide 250 spots in the Conrad Career Associates program. However, more than have 250 students successfully exited the AYE program, which makes them eligible for Conrad Career Associates. Because of this excess demand, random assortment into groups who receive the services and groups who don’t is the most fair way to determine admission.
The control group, who will not be enrolled in Conrad Career Associates, will receive typical alumni programming from CCLA, including career fairs.
LEO researchers will analyze data from CCLA, California unemployment wage records, Experian credit records, and the National Student Clearinghouse. In addition, study participants will fill out a survey at enrollment, 18 months post-enrollment, and 3 years post-enrollment. LEO researchers will compare administrative data and survey results for youth who did and did not participate in Conrad Career Associates.