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IES Grant

Title: READY for WAGES: Research on Employment of Adjudicated Youth through Working at Gaining Employment Social Skills Curriculum
Center: NCSER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Unruh, Deanne Awardee: University of Oregon
Program: Transition to Postsecondary Education, Career, and/or Independent Living      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (9/1/2015-8/31/2019) Award Amount: $3,500,000
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R324A150138

Co-Principal Investigator: Keith Smolkowski (Oregon Research Institute)

Purpose: This project will assess the efficacy of Research on Employment of Adjudicated Youth through Working at Gaining Employment Social Skills Curriculum (READY for WAGES), a research-based social skills curriculum, to promote positive employment-related skills and outcomes for incarcerated juvenile offenders with disabilities in long-term facilities. Adolescents with disabilities are over-represented in the juvenile justice system, and young offenders with disabilities are even more at risk for poor outcomes related to sustained employment than their peer offenders. In addition, juvenile offenders are costly to our society, in legal and incarceration costs as well as victims' person costs. Reducing recidivism rates can reduce these costs. Interventions are needed to target employment-related skills for young offenders, in particular those with disabilities, as they exit youth correctional facilities.

Project Activities: A cluster randomized controlled trial will be conducted to assess the effect of the READY for WAGES curriculum on the outcomes of juvenile offenders with disabilities in youth correctional facilities. The READY for WAGES curriculum includes 14 lessons designed for implementation over a 9-week term in high school classes of approximately 50 minutes per day as offered in these facilities. Students in the intervention classes will be compared to those in control classes on outcomes pre- and post-intervention to determine the efficacy of the intervention.

Products: The project will result in evidence of the efficacy of READY for WAGES in increasing employment-related skills and employment as well as reducing recidivism rates for juvenile offenders with disabilities that have exited youth correctional facilities. Products will also include peer-reviewed publications and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in long-term, secure school programs in youth correctional facilities in Oregon, Iowa, Utah, and Michigan.

Sample: Young offenders with disabilities between the ages of 15 and 21 incarcerated within long-term care facilities will be the targeted population. Across 4 years, approximately 3,456 students in this age group will be enrolled. Project staff will recruit school programs located within approximately 12 long-term, secure youth correctional facilities, along with the teachers of the school programs (one to four teachers per facility) and the students with disabilities within these facilities.

Intervention: READY for WAGES, developed through a previous IES grant, is based on a cognitive-behavioral framework that targets four workplace skills: (a) self-regulation, (b) teamwork, (c) communication, and (d) problem solving. The curriculum consists of 14 interactive lessons that can be implemented across a 9-week term. Lessons focus on how to "maintain" employment as opposed to "how to get the job" and help youth decide when to disclose, or not to disclose, their involvement in the juvenile justice system to employers. Intervention teachers receive professional development and coaching to deliver the intervention.

Research Design and Methods: This project will test the efficacy of the READY for WAGES intervention using a cluster randomized trial that nests students within class periods (the unit of analysis) and facilities. Proximal outcomes will be measured upon completion of the class and potential moderators and mediators will be explored in analyses at the student and class level. Training and implementation data will be collected using surveys and interviews, and participating teachers and students will provide social validity data. The distal outcome, community engagement, will be measured after the youth exit the facilities.

Control Condition: In the business-as-usual control condition, teachers will continue to teach their students as they normally do using typical curricula for the assigned content of the course in the classes offered in the juvenile justice facility.

Key Measures: This project will rely on proximal measures of social skills, specifically (a) self-regulation, (b) teamwork, (c) communication, and (d) problem solving. Measures include the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS), and the Working, which assesses skills aligned with the curriculum. The key distal outcome measure is community engagement—employed or enrolled in school and not recidivated. Implementation measures will be collected, including fidelity checklists, attendance, and business-as-usual practices. The WAGES Satisfaction Scale (WSS) will be completed by teachers and students.

Data Analytic Strategy: To examine proximal outcomes collected immediately following the intervention, a mixed-model analysis of covariance will be conducted to compare students who experience READY for WAGES to those in the control condition. Differences in community engagement will be compared with a nested survival analysis. Analytic approaches will address the nested structure of the data, and moderation and mediation will also be examined.

Related IES Projects: Project READY: Research on Employability Skills for Adjudicated Youth with Disabilities (R324A080140)