JOBSTART was created by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) and its partner organizations and funded by the Job Training Partnership Act of 1982. The goal was to address the high numbers of high school dropouts and provide them with an alternative source of education and vocational training in hopes of leading them to better and higher paying jobs. JOBSTART concentrates on four core components:
· Occupational training
· Support services
· Job placement assistance
JOBSTART targets high school dropouts and economically disadvantaged youths. Because of the intertwining of socioeconomic status and race, many participants were minority youths with poor reading skills who were receiving some form of public assistance.
JOBSTART was modeled after the residential Job Corps program but was designed to be more cost effective. Instead of the intensive comprehensive support services and financial compensation offered at Job Corps residential centers, JOBSTART would provide the same basic components of the program but in a nonresidential setting. The JOBSTART program instructed youths in basic academic skills, concentrating on increasing communication, literacy levels, and math skills. In addition, youths received vocational/occupational skills training. Instructors in a classroom setting combined theory and hands-on practice to prepare participants for jobs in growing sectors and high-demand occupations. Support services in the form of transportation assistance, child care, counseling, and work readiness and life skills training were also provided. Lastly, JOBSTART personnel also helped youths find jobs related to the training they had received, matching trainees with positions available in the local community.
The underlying theory behind JOBSTART is that a reinvestment and emphasis on educational attainment will result in better employment and long-term gains in earnings. Essentially, the program attempted to give youths a second chance and tried to improve their lives and earning potential by combining education classes with vocational training, making them better potential candidates and employees entering the workforce.
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Although Cave and colleagues (1993) report some positive findings, the preponderance of evidence revealed null effects. The treatment group (youths receiving JOBSTART services) did not have significantly different outcomes than the control group (who received no services) across most outcome measures. The researchers noted that the resources devoted to JOBSTART exceeded the benefits produced for society.
In the treatment group, 42 percent earned a high school diploma or GED equivalent, compared with 28.6 percent in the control group. This difference between groups is primarily the result of youths’ in the treatment group earning GEDs, rather than staying in high school and earning their high school diplomas. JOBSTART did not make an impact on school attendance or dropout rates. Instead, JOBSTART youths were given educational classes and had the second chance to take the general equivalency test and earn their GEDs.
At the 12-month follow-up point, 56.5 percent of the treatment group had worked at some point during the previous year, compared with 60.8 percent of the control group. This difference in employment is due to those in the treatment group participating in JOBSTART training and thus not having as much time or as many opportunities to work as the control group, who could find work on their own or use other services that may not have been so intensive. Researchers expected this initial difference and theorized that, after receiving JOBSTART services, the treatment group would surpass the control group in later years. However, they did not. By the 24-month follow-up point, the treatment group had surpassed the control group: 71.0 percent had worked in the past year, compared with 67.5 percent in the control group. But by years 3 and 4 of the study, there were no discernable differences in time spent employed between the two groups.
At the 1-year follow-up point, the treatment group had earned less on average than the control group. By the 3-year and 4-year year follow-up points, the treatment group had surpassed the control group, earning approximately $400 more per capita a year. However, this difference was small and not statistically significant.
Only 1 site out of 13 demonstrated a strong earnings effect, and this applied to only 1 subgroup. Single-parent, minority females attending the Center for Employment Training in
Receipt of Public Assistance
Overall, JOBSTART demonstrated little to no impact on the receipt of public assistance among youths involved in the program. There were small differences for subsample comparisons, but most of these comparisons were not statistically significant.
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