Organization Profile: The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private charitable organization dedicated to helping build better futures for disadvantaged children in the U.S. It was established in 1948 by Jim Casey, one of the founders of UPS, and his siblings, who named the foundation in honor of their mother. The primary mission of the foundation is to foster public policies, human-service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today’s vulnerable children and families. In pursuit of this goal, the foundation awards grants that help states, cities, and neighborhoods fashion more innovative, cost-effective responses to these needs.
Program Structure/Design: First Jobs Academy (FJA) is a youth staffing initiative that provides initial and transitional employment opportunities for in-school and out-of-school youth with and without disabilities who are in the foster care system. It began in 2004 in Maine as a pilot project with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. FJA combines a highly integrated and comprehensive approach to business partner relationships through both on- and off-site job coaching to create initial and interim skill-building opportunities in a variety of business sectors.
FJA programming provides life skills and employment training to youth to foster an environment in which early employment becomes an educational tool that enriches the culture of local businesses, builds the potential of youth in the foster care system, and supports the communities in which they live and work.
When FJA began in 2004, it was set up as a contract staffing initiative similar to a Manpower or Kelly Services arrangement, whereby wages and an administrative markup were paid by the employer to FJA. Youth participating in the program worked with job coaches, typically special education professionals on summer hiatus. This so-called First Jobs Staffing approach placed 25-30 youth in summer and summer-to-hire jobs among as many as 10 business partners, with the majority of youth placed within the grocery retail industry with their anchor business partner, Hannaford Bros. Co. This staffing approach operated through 2007 with an 80-83% job retention rate.
In 2007, following a program assessment conducted in partnership with the FJA business members, the program made several changes to their structure, eliminating external job coaching and replacing it with an Enhanced Management Training Program—a 16-hour curriculum taught by committed experts in the fields of child welfare, disability, and accommodated training, with a focus on supporting youth in the workplace. Managers and supervisors in each participating business take part in this training and subsequently provide workplace mentoring for youth with the support of an advisor. The program advisor manages and coordinates all operations and the overall training. The advisor’s responsibilities include providing ongoing support to supervisors and brokering and expediting required resources through each youth’s social service provider and family or caregiver.
Although FJA is first and foremost a program for youth in the foster care system, statistics show that of the 235 young people ages 15-21 who participated in FJA between 2004 and 2009:
- 25% had also been involved in the juvenile justice system,
- 70% had a diagnosed learning disability,
- 29% had two or more diagnosed disabilities,
- 40% had post-traumatic stress syndrome,
- 60% received regular mental health services, including psychotropic medication management,
- 80% received special education services while in school; 20% of these youth attend alternative schools.
In 2004, 40% of the youth participants resided in congregate care settings, including group homes. By 2010, only 10% were not in family-type settings.
States of Operation: ME
ODEP Funded: No
Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences: Unlike most job readiness classroom components, FJA youth are guaranteed a summer job upon training completion and immediately use the classroom skills on the job. FJA’s program design incorporates several workforce development practices that foster employment success for program participants by 1) adopting a dual customer approach to providing employment services that emphasizes the needs of both the employer customer and youth customer, 2) enhancing the employer’s cultural competence regarding its workforce through targeted training provided to key management staff, 3) collaborating with community service providers to address youths’ barriers to employment, 4) facilitating job-specific preparation and skill training, particularly in “soft skills,” and 5) providing ongoing support and technical assistance to employers.
Key elements of the program design include:
Recruitment: Youth are recruited via a network of 21 youth-serving organizations in southern Maine. Each organization is provided detailed information on program eligibility and employment opportunities, including the types of positions available, hours, wages, and location.
Assessment: Each youth is assessed by a team comprised of the FJA advisor, social service organization staff, and foster parents or group home staff. This assessment seeks to determine whether the youth would be successful in sustaining employment via a structured program (such as FJA) that provides basic life skills and workplace training, and identifies existing resources and resources that must be cultivated to help the youth become successful. The assessment’s goal is to assemble a network of supports around each young person to ensure a positive First Jobs Academy experience.
Selection: Youth must complete an essay and an interview in order to participate in the Academy. The essay provides youth the opportunity to share information about themselves, including academic and career goals, and to discuss how they would benefit from participating in the Academy. The interview serves to better familiarize the youth with the employer and the requirements of the position. It is never used to screen out a prospective participant.
Orientation: A kick-off orientation is held to allow program participants and their family members or supporters to meet other participants and business mentors. The orientation provides an opportunity to build relationships and resolve issues that could negatively impact the youth’s employment experience.
Business Mentor Training: FJA-affiliated businesses designate staff (typically a manager or supervisor) to complete a 16-hour mentor training. This training is designed to fully eliminate the need for external job coaching supports, since much of the coaching is done by the employer.
Life Skills and Job Retention Skills Training: Before beginning the seasonal employment component of FJA, youth must complete four weeks (six hours per week) of pre-employment life skills and job retention skills training program conducted by business and community leaders at the University of Southern Maine (USM). Youth receive a $25 stipend for each of the four weeks of training.
Direct-Hire Summer Employment: Youth participate in 11 weeks of unsubsidized part-time summer employment and earn hourly wages between $8.00 and $11.00. Through FJA’s partnership with various banks and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, youth not only learn about Money Management but also have the option of participating in a Matched Savings Account program. The Matched Savings Account (or Individual Development Account) provides a dollar for dollar match, up to $1,000 per year, of a young person’s savings for the purchase of approved assets: education, vehicles, housing, investments, microenterprise, and health care.
The FJA advisor is responsible for cultivating new business relationships. The process involves meeting with employers’ human resources staff and line managers to discuss the employers’ needs in summer and seasonal employment, learn about the employers’ culture, and acquire a very detailed understanding of the job positions dedicated to FJA and the areas of knowledge and skills needed to successfully perform the work. The advisor then secures a commitment from the employer to hire one or more FJA youth and to participate in the program.
Connecting Activities: Through its partnerships with various social service agencies, FJA ensures that each youth receives the individualized services and support they need to remove barriers to employment. FJA staff, the youth and family, and referring service agencies identify all service needs when the youth enters the program and connect the youth to various service providers. FJA’s social service partners include the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, the Maine Department of Labor’s Bureau of Rehabilitation Services and Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Casey Family Services Maine Division, Casey Family Services Massachusetts Division, and the Massachusetts Department of Children and Family.
Family Involvement and Supports: FJA involves each young person’s family or foster family from day one. FJA staff meet the youth and family in their home along with a representative from the referring social service agency. The family is involved in identifying all the youth’s needs and potential barriers to employment success and developing a service plan to connect him or her with community service providers to meet each need. Families also meet the youth’s workplace mentor at the job site so they can work collaboratively to support the youth’s participation in the job.
EVIDENCE OF SUCCESS (INFORMATION AND ANALYSIS)
Data/Program Outcomes: Much of the success of the FJA program can be attributed to the consistent involvement of the anchor business partner, Hannaford Bros. Co. Through the extending investment by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and a complementary investment by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, from 2005 to 2009, Hannaford has employed 150 youth in 21 retail locations in southern Maine with an 82% retention rate. The youth’s employment experiences include temporary summer employment, summer-to-hire, and long-term permanent employment. Several former FJA youth have advanced to more skilled positions and successfully transitioned to other Hannaford retail locations.
FJA has identified two primary outcome measures for determining whether the program is achieving its goal: the percentage of youth who complete the academy and the percentage of youth who are offered continued employment. Between 2004 and 2007, 172 youth participated in First Jobs Staffing, and 82% of them successfully completed the program. By 2008, 89% of the 28 youth enrolled in FJA successfully completed the program. Moreover, 100% of the youth were offered continued employment by participating employers.
In 2010, based on the promising results achieved by FJA in Maine, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Casey Family Services funded a targeted replication in Lowell, Massachusetts, with Hannaford Bros. Company as the anchor business partner.
Third-Party Documentation/Program Evaluation: In 2006, researchers at USM’s Muskie School of Public Service completed a descriptive study of the First Jobs program. The final report of this study is available online. More recently, a graduate student from Muskie School of Public Service completed a process evaluation and produced a logic model to more fully examine the organizational structure.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation previously contracted with the Cutler Institute at the Muskie School of Public Service to document and pilot the curriculum that First Jobs Academy uses to train youth and employers. The resulting curricula, described below, can be found on the Cutler Institute’s website:
- First Jobs Academy Enhanced Management Training (Beaulieu, 2010) prepares community employers to successfully hire and retain youth in the child welfare system. Training sessions are designed to help employers understand the strengths and struggles these youth bring to the world of work in order to increase opportunities for success.
- First Jobs Academy Work Readiness Training for Child Welfare Involved Youth: Trainer Guide(Beaulieu, 2010) is a curriculum for training youth job seekers that focuses on mastery of knowledge, skills, and abilities related to work readiness in four main competency areas:
- Communication: Articulates thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively; demonstrates public speaking skills; writes work-related materials clearly and effectively.
- Critical Thinking & Problem-Solving: Exercises sound reasoning and analytical thinking; uses knowledge, facts, and data to solve workplace problems.
- Professionalism: Demonstrates personal accountability and effective work habits, such as punctuality, working productively with others toward a goal, and time and workload management.
- Teamwork & Collaboration: Builds productive and professional working relationships with colleagues, supervisors, and customers; able to work with diverse teams; able to negotiate and manage conflict in the workplace.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation holds the intellectual capital associated with all FJA’s essential components.
Pending final approval from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the University of Massachusetts Lowell will assist First Jobs Academy to improve its logic model, maintain, and enhance training fidelity, and conduct a formative assessment to develop measurement tools that could provide the foundation for a larger evaluation.
To learn more about First Jobs Academy, see:
“First Jobs Academy Helps Youth In Foster Care,” 2009 article and video from WCSH6 News in Portland-Auburn, Maine
“Interview with First Jobs Director Rob Franciose,” 2009 article by Alternative Staffing Alliance
“Foster Kids: A Second Source of Applicants,” 2008 article in the Society for Resource Management’s Staffing Management Magazine
“First Jobs: Youth with Challenges Building a Workforce,” 2008 article in Voice (Winter 2008,pp. 2-4), a publication of Casey Family Services
Organization Name: Annie E. Casey Foundation
Organization Director: Brian Lyght, Senior Associate for Evidence-Based Practice
Program Name: First Jobs Academy
Street Address: 150 Bluff Road
Phone Number: (207) 846-4150
Contact Person: Rob Franciose
Contact Title: First Jobs Academy Founder & Advisor
Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org