Organization Profile: The Workforce Partnership is one of Kansas’ five Local Workforce Investment Areas (LWIAs) designated by the governor under the federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998. Located in northeast Kansas, the Workforce Partnership provides employment and related services to residents of Johnson, Leavenworth, and Wyandotte Counties, which include the cities of Leavenworth, Kansas City, and Overland Park. The Workforce Partnership delivers employment services at three Career One-Stop Centers and a Mobile Career Center, and operates under the direction of the Kansas Local Workforce Investment Board (WIB) III, which contracts with the Kaiser Group to run the Centers.
The Workforce Partnership Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) is one of the employment services available to qualified youth ages 16-24 for a six- to eight-week period during the summer for in-school youth and for a longer term for out-of-school youth. In 2009 and 2010, the Workforce Partnership SYEP was funded by a share of a $7.1 million grant made to Kansas for WIA Youth Activities under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Each of the other four Kansas LWIAs also received ARRA funds to run their Summer Youth Employment Programs for these two years.
Program Structure/Design: The Workforce Partnership, in collaboration with the Kansas Department of Commerce, developed SYEP to help youth ages 16-24 find jobs and gain hands-on experience under the terms of the ARRA.
The Workforce Partnership received $2.3 million under ARRA, with the requirement that these funds be expended between May 1, 2009 and June 30, 2011. Under guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor and Kansas Department of Commerce, the Workforce Partnership used much of this allocation to operate SYEP in 2009, with the remaining funds being allocated for SYEP in 2010. Reflecting this prioritization, the Workforce Partnership SYEP served and placed approximately 800 youth in 2009 and was serving about 60 youth midway through 2010.
The Workforce Partnership SYEP is specifically intended for low-income youth ages 16-24 with barriers to employment. The central objective of the SYEP is to introduce and reinforce the demands and rewards of holding a job. While earning a wage, youth with limited work experience also learn work readiness skills, explore in-demand occupations, and investigate postsecondary education and training opportunities.
Design characteristics of the Workforce Partnership SYEP in 2009, as well as similar programs offered by each of the other four local WIBs in Kansas, include:
- Objective assessment and individual service strategies;
- Age-appropriate activities and work readiness goals;
- Meaningful work experiences;
- Worksites with a combination of public sector, private sector, and non‐profit summer employment;
- Incorporation of “green” work experiences;
- Connection to registered apprenticeships;
- Integration of work‐based and classroom‐based learning activities;
- Academic and occupational linkages;
- Continuation of services supporting older youth (ages 19 – 21) and out‐of‐school youth during non‐summer months;
- Focus on the neediest youth, including out-of-school youth and youth most at risk of dropping out; youth in and aging out of foster care; court-involved youth and youth at risk of court involvement; homeless and runaway youth; children of incarcerated parents; migrant youth; and youth with disabilities; and
- Twelve-month follow‐up.
The Workforce Partnership used a number of methods to inform youth about the availability of jobs under the 2009 SYEP, including announcements on a local television station, postcard mailings to residents of the local housing authority, and web-based social media.
Youth interested in participating in SYEP in 2009 and 2010 could download the SYEP application from the Workforce Partnership website. After completing the application and gathering required documentation, youth were to call the nearest Career One-Stop Center for an appointment. The Center then determined their eligibility, assessed their service needs, and made the job placement.
Once approved and placed with an employer, a SYEP participant intern was paid for 20 – 30 hours of work per week at $7.25 per hour for a typical period of six to eight weeks. For an in-school youth, the SYEP usually ended by the end of July. For an out-of-school youth, the SYEP ran beyond the summer for some 2009 participants.
The large-scale Workforce Partnership SYEP service outreach and program participation in summer 2009 was directly attributable to the availability of ARRA funds. With diminished ARRA resources available for the summer 2010 program, far fewer youth were participating in the second year of the program. Absent federal funding from an extension of this source – or from a combination of other federal, state, local, or private resources – the Workforce Partnership SYEP might be expected to continue operation at a further diminished level after 2010.
States of Operation: KS
ODEP Funded: No
Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences: The 2009 Workforce Partnership SYEP provided youth participants with the opportunity to gain on-the-job work experience, earn wages as one of the rewards of work, and successfully interact with employers and supervisors. This program also encouraged participants to engage in future career consideration and exploration and, through participants’ daily work experiences and role in their business workplace, illustrated the value of further education and specialized training in order to advance beyond entry-level employment in the full-time workforce.
The Workforce Partnership chose to use a business model for the orientation of its 2009 SYEP participants. Under this approach, the Partnership created a five-day new hire orientation to ensure the development of required job readiness competencies. This orientation included a job fair where employers conducted interviews with program participants in order to make a good match between youth and jobs.
As part of the business model approach, the Workforce Partnership selected and hired 27 individuals who had experience working with youth to be trained as mentors to work with SYEP participants throughout the 2009 program. The Workforce Partnership provided these mentors with a week of preparatory training that included how to recruit and work with youth; expected standards of youth conduct and behavior management; and ways to conduct training and work with employers.
In association with the Workforce Partnership’s permanent staff, these mentors helped each youth participant develop work readiness skills, explore the world of work, consider long-term career and education planning, and work on building necessary life skills.
EVIDENCE OF SUCCESS (INFORMATION AND ANALYSIS)
Systems Change: The Workforce Partnership SYEP offers local WIBs across the nation a seemingly efficient and effective model for establishing a new—or enhancing an existing—summer youth employment programs. Its flexible design features, including its web-enabled ease of application for potential youth participants, would appear to make this program a good template for study and use by other communities interested in expanding youth employment and skills acquisition over the summer months. This SYEP also offers an example of a program that can be scaled up or down administratively, as funding and other related resource availability needs require.
Workforce Partnership managers indicate that one of the significant initial challenges they faced in developing and launching their large-scale inaugural SYEP in 2009 was getting all applicant eligibility data compiled and verified and each youth placed in a suitable job in only two to three months. A second challenge involved establishing and enforcing timely, uniform, and secure payment distribution procedures for employed youth participants.
Perhaps the biggest immediate obstacle facing the Workforce Partnership in their planning for continuation of the SYEP in 2011 and beyond is funding. With expenditure authority under the ARRA due to expire on June 30, 2011, Workforce Partnership as well as the other local WIBs in Kansas face the challenge of finding replacement funds for their summer youth employment programs. While limited funds may be available from existing WIA Youth Activities program sources, identifying additional, new fiscal resources for summer youth employment activities would appear to be a challenge for Workforce Partnership and other Kansas WIBs as well as for other local WIBs nationwide that might wish to emulate the state’s model.