JOBSTART was evaluated in 13 study sites in nine states: Arizona (Phoenix), California (Los Angeles, Monterey Park, San Jose), Colorado (Denver), Connecticut (Hartford), Illinois (Chicago), Georgia (Atlanta), New York (Buffalo, New York City), Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh), and Texas (Corpus Christi, Dallas). The sites differed in their organization and structure: four of the sites were adult schools (three vocational, one community college), six were community-based organizations, and three were nonresidential Job Corps programs.
JOBSTART served youth who were: (1) 17 to 21 years old, (2) lacking a high school diploma or GED certificate, (3) reading below an 8th-grade level, and (4) economically disadvantaged. To meet enrollment targets, sites could waive the poor-reading-skills criterion for 20% of their enrollees. Applicants were considered economically disadvantaged if they: (1) received public assistance, (2) had a family income at or below the poverty line, or (3) were homeless.
From 1985 to 1987, JOBSTART participants were recruited and enrolled by 13 sites in nine states. All participants were high school dropouts, and half had not worked at all in the year prior to enrolling in the program. Most JOBSTART recruits were non-White, 44% African-American, and 44% Hispanic. Just over half enrollees (54%) were women, and about half the women were young mothers. At baseline, 27% of sample members were receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children or general assistance, while 38% were receiving food stamps.
In the JOBSTART demonstration, 2,312 youth were randomly assigned to either JOBSTART or a control condition. The analyses in this report are based on data collected in the 48-month follow-up survey, to which 85% of JOBSTART youth and 83% of control group youth responded. Among the 1,941 respondents, the study authors compared the baseline characteristics of JOBSTART and control group youth, including their gender, ethnicity, family structure, employment history, and whether they received public assistance. They found no statistically significant differences between the research groups on these characteristics.
JOBSTART offered a combination of education and occupational preparation services to improve the employment prospects of high school dropouts. Participation was voluntary. JOBSTART was modeled after Job Corps, which according to the study authors, was one of the few programs that had documented success in improving the outcomes of high school dropouts. But Job Corps was relatively expensive and required a residential commitment (a considerable barrier to participation for many youth). JOBSTART offered many of the same components as Job Corps, but was nonresidential. In addition, in an effort to reduce the program cost, JOBSTART did not include some of Job Corps’ most intensive services, such as extensive support services, paid work experience, and financial compensation.
JOBSTART emphasized education and occupational preparation. It had four key components: (1) instruction in basic academic skills, (2) occupational skills training, (3) support services to facilitate participation, and (4) job placement assistance. Although all sites were required to offer the four components, implementation of the components varied. Some sites, for instance, offered all components in-house, while others linked participants with outside agencies that provided these services. The four key components of JOBSTART are described in more detail below: 1. Instruction in basic academic skills, 2. Occupational skills training, 3. Support services, 4. Job placement assistance.
Control group youth were not eligible to participate in JOBSTART but could voluntarily participate in other services available in the community. Based on survey responses, many control group youth participated in education and training programs during the follow-up period—but their rate of participation was substantially lower than it was among JOBSTART youth (Cave et al., 1993). During the four years after random assignment, 56% of control group youth reported receiving remedial or occupational instruction, compared with 94% of JOBSTART youth. Over this period, the average amount of participation in education and training was 432 hours for control group youth,
compared with 800 hours for the JOBSTART youth (including their participation in JOBSTART as well as other education and training activities).
One relevant outcome from the JOBSTART study is included in this summary and used for rating purposes: receiving a high school diploma or GED certificate within 48 months of random assignment. For a more detailed description of the outcome measure, see Appendix A2. The study also examined the program’s effects on employment, hours worked, total earnings, welfare receipt, pregnancy, criminal activity, and drug use. These outcomes, however, do not fall within the three domains examined by the WWC’s review of dropout prevention interventions (staying in school, progressing in school, and completing school). So, they are not included in this report.
Support for implementation
Many JOBSTART staff were former teachers from public schools or community colleges. In many instances, these teachers had experience working with disadvantaged youth or adults. In some instances, they had taught GED preparation classes or remedial education prior to working for JOBSTART. Other JOBSTART staff had previously worked in other employment programs for disadvantaged youth (Auspos, Cave, Doolittle, & Hoerz, 1989).