Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.
Federal Programs for Transitioning to Employment
Opportunities to Explore Careers in the Civil Service
Federal agencies provide youth with a variety of opportunities to explore careers in the federal government and develop and learn skills necessary for employment through the Pathways Programs. Students can follow one of three paths depending on where they are in their education and career:
The Internship Program aims to provide students, from high school to graduate school, with paid, on-the-job opportunities to explore and experience federal careers while continuing to pursue their education. Internships are primarily administered by individual agencies, and those who participate may be eligible for conversion to a permanent job in the civil service. Eligible students include those pursuing a qualifying degree or certificate at
- an accredited high school or college (including four-year colleges/universities, community colleges, and junior colleges);
- a professional, technical, vocational, or trade school;
- an advanced degree programs; or
- other qualifying educational institutions.
Learn more about the program, how it is administered, and opportunities to convert the Internship Program into an ongoing career.
Recent Graduates Program
The Recent Graduates Program was established to support the exploration of careers in the federal government for individuals who have recently graduated from a qualifying educational institution or program. The Recent Graduates Program is administered primarily by each hiring agency and typically lasts for one year—unless additional time is needed as a result of the structure of the program—and includes an orientation, ongoing mentoring, training, an individual development plan, and opportunities for career advancement. Participants must apply to participate within two years of competing their degree or certificate (except for veterans precluded from doing so because of their military service obligation, who will have up to six years after degree completion to apply) in order to be eligible. Learn more about the Recent Graduate Program.
Presidential Management Fellows Program
The Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program provides leadership development opportunities within the federal government for entry-level, advanced degree candidates. Participants receive a two-year excepted service position that includes mentoring, career development planning, training, and opportunities for permanent placement upon completion of the program. Individuals who have completed an advanced degree (e.g., master’s, professional degree) within the past two years are eligible to apply. The PMF Program is centrally administered by the PMF Program Office and includes a rigorous assessment process that is based on an evaluation of each candidate’s experience and accomplishments according to his or her application and results of the assessments. Learn more about the Presidential Management Fellows Program.
Youth in the Great Outdoors (YouthGO) is an initiative of the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture. YouthGO strives to empower youth to be the next generation of conservation leaders by employing youth to protect, revitalize, and restore the environment and communities; educating youth about the environment; and purposefully engaging youth from all backgrounds. YouthGO provides information and available career and internship opportunities for youth and has numerous partner organizations, including 4-H, Job Corps, AmeriCorps, and many others.
Other Federally Supported Career Development Opportunities
In addition to the opportunities to explore careers in the civil service, many federal agencies and departments, including the U.S. Department of Labor, AmeriCorps, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Department of the Interior, provide opportunities for youth to explore careers, develop skills, and transition to employment. These programs strive to help both youth who are in school and those who are out of school develop skills and opportunities for employment.
Workforce Investment Act Youth Programs
The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funds a variety of youth programs to support local workforce investment. These programs provide a comprehensive array of youth services that focus on assisting low-income youth ages 14 to 21 with one or more barriers to employment. Programs prepare youth for postsecondary educational and employment opportunities, helping them attain educational and/or skills training credentials and secure employment with career/promotional opportunities. Services include tutoring, summer employment opportunities, occupational skill training, leadership development, supportive services, mentoring, follow-up services, work experience, alternative secondary school offerings, and comprehensive guidance and counseling. A WIA youth provider can be located here and additional information can be found here (PDF, 1 page).
President Barack Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) into law on July 22, 2014. The new law aims to improve services to all participants and places a strong emphasis on serving out-of-school youth, providing work-based activities, and attaining recognized postsecondary credentials.
The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) at the U.S. Department of Labor is currently developing regulations and guidance to assist the workforce system in implementing the new law. Training and Employment Notice (TEN) 05-14 provides information on the enactment of WIOA, announces implementation plans, shares key statutorily-required implementation dates, and provides initial informational resources. ETA has also established a WIOA Resource Page.
Youth Career Connect
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded 24 Youth Career Connect grants. TheYouth Career Connect program is designed to encourage school districts, postsecondary institutions, the workforce investment system, and their partners to scale up evidence-based high school models that will transform the high school experience for youth in the United States. Grant funding provides high school students with education and training that combine rigorous academic and technical curricula focused on specific high-growth industries and occupations. The core elements of the program include
- integrated academic and career-focused learning,
- employer engagement,
- individualized career and academic counseling,
- work-based learning and exposure to the world of work,
- program sustainability, and/li>
- program performance and outcomes.
The YouthBuild program enables at-risk youth ages 16 to 24 to obtain academic and occupational skills training leading to the completion of a high school diploma, GED, or industry-recognized credential. The program model includes a combination of academics, leadership development, and vocational skills to prepare youth for employment in the construction industry. Grants are awarded to qualifying organizations through a solicitation for grant applications (SGA). YouthBuild offers a wide range of experiences for participants, including opportunities to
- participate in community service and service-learning experience;
- receive personalized counseling, mentoring, and adult support from a caring role model who is committed to their success;
- obtain a high school diploma or GED for those who have dropped out of school;
- develop job skills focused on construction training, resulting in an industry-recognized credential;
- build leadership and civic engagement experience through shared governance of the program and the chance to make decisions and policies related to the program; and
- create a community of peers and ongoing support through an alumni network.2
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) funds organizations across the country to operate YouthBuild programs serving approximately 7,500 youth per year. Learn more about DOL’s YouthBuild program, and view the 2012 and 2013 grantees.
Reintegration of Ex-Offenders Program
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Reintegration of Ex-Offenders (RExO) Program targets court-involved youth, young adults, and adult ex-offenders through a variety of discretionary grant awards. Organizations partner with juvenile and adult justice systems to assist in providing employment and training to this population of individuals who may find it difficult to obtain employment or training without additional assistance. Projects support a comprehensive strategy for serving youth in a local area to which many are returning from juvenile correctional or detention facilities. Both the adult and the youthful offender grants serve as demonstration projects for improving communities with high rates of crime and poverty.
Established in 1964, Job Corps is the nation’s largest federally funded, primarily residential, training program for at-risk youth, ages 16 to 24. With 125 centers in 48 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, Job Corps provides economically disadvantaged youth with the academic, career, technical, and employability skills needed to enter the workforce, enroll in postsecondary education, or enlist in the military.
Serving approximately 60,000 participants each year, Job Corps emphasizes the attainment of academic credentials, including a high school diploma and/or GED, and career technical training credentials, including industry-recognized certifications, state licensures, and pre-apprenticeship credentials. These portable credentials build a long-term attachment to the workforce and economic mobility as Job Corps graduates advance through their careers. They ensure that program graduates have gained the skills and knowledge necessary to compete in today’s workforce.
Approximately 68.6 percent of those who completed the career technical training in 2011 were placed in a training-related job, the military, or postsecondary education. In addition, on the 12-Month Follow-up Survey, 67.5 percent of graduates reported that they were employed, in the military, or completing their education.3 To see additional results or results by Job Corp site and learn more about Job Corps, how to apply, and what is offered through the program.
AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps
AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), funded by AmeriCorps, is a full-time, residential program for men and women ages 18 to 24. The program is a ten-month commitment focused on strengthening communities and developing leaders through direct, team-based national and community service in partnership with nonprofits—secular and faith-based organizations, local municipalities, state governments, federal government, national or state parks, American Indian Tribes, and schools. Participants receive a $4,000 stipend for the ten months of service (about $200 every two weeks before taxes), housing, meals, limited medical benefits, up to $400 a month for childcare (if necessary), member uniforms, and a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award to help with college costs upon successful completion of the program. Through their service, participants gain valuable experience that translates directly into job experience in a chosen field. They learn teamwork, communication, responsibility, and other essential skills. Learn more about AmeriCorps NCCC’s collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense’s National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program.
On March 13, 2012, the White House announced an innovative partnership between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and AmeriCorps to establish a FEMA-devoted unit of service corps members within AmeriCorps NCCC. FEMA Corps members, youth ages 18 to 24 participating in 10-month commitments, are solely focused on disaster preparedness, response, and recovery activities. They serve in areas ranging from working directly with disaster survivors to supporting disaster recovery centers to sharing valuable disaster preparedness and mitigation information with the public. The first 240 FEMA Corps members were selected in September 2012. Learn more about the FEMA Corps program.
21st Century Conservation Service Corps
The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) is based on service-learning principles that help youth develop environmental and civic responsibility while acquiring knowledge, job skills, and exposure to careers in natural and cultural resource management. Young people ages 15 to 25 from diverse backgrounds, including tribal and underserved populations, those who have little or no opportunity to experience the outdoors, and young women and girls, can participate in eight- to 10-week projects during the summer or through full-time employment. Examples include
- the U.S. Department of the Interior‒funded Youth Conservation Corps;
- the National Park Service partnership with nonprofit organizations to support the Public Land Corps;
- the National Park Services Youth Internship Program (YIP);
- the U.S. Department of the Interior’s multiyear Career Discovery Internship Program for college students; and
- the Conservation and Land Management Internships that place interns within the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and U.S. Forest Service field offices./li>
National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program
The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, is a residential program for youth ages 16 to 18 who have dropped out of or been expelled from high school and who are unemployed, not heavily involved with the criminal justice system, drug free, and legal residents of the state in which the program is offered. The program is focused on eight components:
- Responsible citizenship
- Service to community
- Life-coping skills
- Physical fitness
- Health and hygiene
- Job skills
- Academic excellence
A large focus is on preparing youth for the GED exam or for a high school diploma. Following the residential phase of the program, youth are paired with a mentor who continues an ongoing relationship with the youth for at least a year. A 2009 evaluation found that youth who participated in the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program were more likely than the control group to have attained a GED or a high school diploma and were more likely to be working or attending college.4Learn more about the collaboration between the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program and AmeriCorps NCCC.
Learn about these models and others by visiting the Transition Age Youth Topic.
Ticket to Work Program
The Ticket to Work Program gives most people receiving Social Security benefits (beneficiaries) more choices for receiving employment services. Under this program, the Social Security Administration (SSA) issues tickets to eligible beneficiaries who, in turn, may choose to assign those tickets to an Employment Network (EN) of their choice to obtain employment services, vocational rehabilitation services, or other support services necessary to achieve a vocational (work) goal. The EN, if it accepts the ticket, will coordinate and provide appropriate services to help the beneficiary find and maintain employment. Learn more about Ticket to Work.
America’s Service Locator
America’s Service Locator is maintained by the U.S. Department of Labor and connects individuals to employment and training opportunities available at local American Job Centers. The website provides contact information for a range of local work-related services, including scholarship information, career development, and educational opportunities.
WorkforceGPS is a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. It provides information and resources for workforce professionals, employers, economic development professionals, and education professionals. Online learning events, resource information, and tools help organizations learn how to develop strategies that enable individuals and businesses to be successful in the 21st century economy.
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