Program Summary: Project C3: Connecting Youth to Communities and Careers is a project of the Minnesota Governor’s Workforce Development Council (GWDC), which is Minnesota’s State Workforce Investment Board. Its 31 members represent business, labor, community-based organizations, education, local elected officials, local workforce councils, state agencies, and Minnesota’s legislature. The GWDC’s charge is to provide vision and strategic direction to the state’s workforce development system to ensure that Minnesota’s employers have enough workers with the right skills to meet their workforce attraction, development, and retention needs.
The Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER Center) is the intermediary organization that administered the projects activities. PACER is a nationally known Parent Training and Information Center whose mission is to expand opportunities and enhance the quality of life of children and young adults with disabilities and their families, based on the concept of parents helping parents.
Project C3 is an ongoing partnership between several Minnesota organizations that offer services to youth and young adults. The project’s purpose is to improve outcomes for youth, including youth with disabilities, transitioning from school to community by connecting them to employment, postsecondary, and independent living resources in their community. The project has four primary goals:
- Incorporate evidence-based transition operating principals throughout Minnesota’s youth service delivery infrastructure to increase employment and improve other post-school outcomes for youth with disabilities.
- Conduct and evaluate local pilot demonstrations in urban and rural Minnesota to determine how community partnerships with intermediary organizations can improve transition outcomes for youth with disabilities.
- Sustain state partnerships and key project activities to ensure ongoing cross-agency collaboration and coordination of federal, state, and community resources and successful outcomes for transitioning youth with disabilities.
- Disseminate project information and products to families and youth development professionals in Minnesota and throughout the nation.
PACER in its role as intermediary served as the convener of the steering committee which served multiple purposes under the project. Members provided technical assistance, training, and resource mapping efforts. State level agencies and organizations participated in different ways and included Vocational Rehabilitation, State Services for the Blind, State Department of Human Services, and State Department of Education, University of Minnesota, Minnesota Disability Law Center, Dakota County Social Services, State Corrections Department, Minnesota State Council on Disability, Job Corps, Social Security Administration, Minnesota Center for Independent Living, and Minnesota State System of Colleges and Universities.
Local pilot sites selected included the City of Minneapolis, Ramsey County, and Central Minnesota Jobs and Training, each its own workforce service area under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).
Resource Mapping. The Project C3 resource mapping efforts and resulting web site provides local workforce development staff, youth, and parents, a searchable directory of youth services available in their local area. This tool increased the capacity of local youth program staff to provide individualized service to participants. The state-of-the-art resource map and web site http://www.c3mn.org/ also integrates unconnected local agencies. Information included in the resource map is organized around broad categories of what youth need to successfully transition to adulthood.
To ensure long term sustainability and create community ownership, Project C3 embedded resource mapping into the activities and work plans of local groups, such as Youth Councils and Community Transition Interagency Committees, within the geographic areas of the pilot sites. Organizations wanting to list information on www.c3online.org are provided a user name and password, which allows them access to a simple four-page survey. Upon completion, the survey is reviewed before being made available to the public via the web site. The completed survey remains accessible to the organization so it may make changes or updates at any time. Organizations are automatically prompted to review their survey every six months to ensure that the data on the Web site is current.
The data reporting functions of C3’s resource mapping tool enables local leaders and policy makers to identify overlaps and gaps in services within mapped communities. It is expected that the local communities will review data, interpret the results, and adopt strategies to take advantage of community strengths and make improvements to their youth services infrastructure.
Staff Training. Project C3 provided staff capacity building training to Workforce Investment Act (WIA) youth program staff and conducted numerous parent-training workshops for families of youth with disabilities. They also went to schools and trained youth on the importance of self-advocacy in the world of work, and presented at various state and national conferences on improving transition outcomes for youth. For youth programs, staff training topics included general disability awareness, working with families and multicultural populations, juvenile justice and youth mental health, interagency collaboration, accessing assistive technology, and disability legislation and job accommodations. In addition, youth program staff was offered one-to-one technical assistance as needed.
From October 1, 2003 to December 31, 2006 Project C3 provided training, advocacy and technical assistance to families, youth, and professionals via presentations, listservs, and other methods.
- During this time span Project C3 conducted 13 parent training workshops reaching 395 parents, youth, and professionals.
- 30 sessions of capacity building training for workforce, transition, and other disability professionals were conducted, reaching 1004 people.
- Youth with disabilities were trained on the importance of self-advocacy and self-determination in the work place, as well as on their civil rights protections. The 10 sessions of Project C3 training to youth reached 140 participants.
- Project C3 regularly gave presentations to professionals and community groups on resource mapping, communities of practice, and other transition issues. The project also manned booths at conferences and transition fairs as a way to disseminate information. The project engaged in 145 such activities reaching 4443 people. It should be noted that these were presentations made solely by PACER project staff. It is estimated that other project partners also disseminated project related information to thousands of youth, families, and professionals.
States of Operation: MN
ODEP Funded: Yes
Profile Year: 2009
Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences: Youth worked to develop the online resource tool. For example, students at the SUMIT Program, a St. Paul Schools transition program for youth with disabilities, were paid to populate and maintain the Ramsey County resource map. Student interns learned workplace skills that included calling local organizations and businesses to solicit information for the mapping database. They also learned how to use the technology associated with the website. Further they developed “soft skills” associated with customer service.
Family Involvement and Supports: Project C3 understands the pivotal role parents play in the lives of youth. Given the right information, parents can help youth access resources, build self-determination, develop work skills, and prepare for postsecondary education. Project C3 conducts numerous workshops for parents of youth with disabilities and provides one to one telephone assistance to families. Many parents respond that “nobody had ever told them” about the various transition and adult service resources available to their youth.
EVIDENCE OF SUCCESS (INFORMATION AND ANALYSIS)
Systems Change: As an organization, PACER has expanded its expertise and capabilities around the issues facing transition age youth with disabilities. It now has the capacity to provide training and technical assistance to parents, youth, and others around the services available through the workforce development system, thereby increasing access to these services for individuals with disabilities.
At the local level, staff capacity trainings increased frontline staff and administrators comfort level and knowledge of serving youth with disabilities. It is anticipated that local sites will continue to offer regular staff training on disability related issues.
Minneapolis has long had a WIA program for youth with disabilities. Through Project C3’s influence that program has been improved to include information for families. Minneapolis’ general WIA and youth employment programs now, as a result of C3 involvement, provide training to employers on serving youth with disabilities on their work sites.
The collaboration among agencies that occurred under this project has continued and has been expanded. Additional agencies have been brought to the table. The Project C3 resource mapping internship model continues to be successfully conducted, offering valuable work experience opportunities to youth with disabilities. It is a model of effective practice that other communities in other states have adopted.
Under the leadership of the Department of Economic Development and Employment, agencies are working on a number of cross-agency activities. The web site (www.deed.state.mn.us/youth/syv/syv.htm) shares information across agencies. An interagency strategic plan focusing on disadvantaged youth, including those with disabilities, is available on the site and is being implemented across the state.
Once ODEP funding ended, many of the original partnering agencies stepped in to offer sustaining dollars for Project C3. The major parts of C3 that have been sustained are:
- Maintenance and expansion of C3 Web site
- Resource Mapping activities cover 87% of the state’s population
- Continued collaboration with grantee local sites along with the development of activities in more workforce areas
Organization Name: Minnesota Governor’s Workforce Development Council
Program Name: Project C3: Connecting Youth to Communities and Careers
Street Address: 332 Minnesota Street
City: St. Paul
Contact Person: Kay Tracy
Contact Title: Director, Office of Community-Based Services, Department of Employment and Economic Development
Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org