Tips for Working with Hard-to-Serve Youths Outlined in Labor Department Memo

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The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA) has released a new guidance for states, workforce investment boards and local service providers to help them deal with contractual and performance issues in a way that doesn’t encourage them to “skim the cream” of applicants and not work with difficult-to-serve youths.

“Performance measures play a crucial role in ensuring that the [Workforce Investment Act] Youth program fulfills its objective to prepare youth to compete in the 21st century economy,” the guidance states. “However, research on the workforce development system also suggests that performance goals can act as an unintended incentive to ‘skim the cream’ from the applicant pool, or serve only those eligible individuals most likely to achieve positive outcomes.”

Noting that some youths take more time and resources to achieve success, the guidance espouses a series of “strategies and tools” to help agencies and organizations develop contracts and work with such youths in a way that doesn’t negatively affect their program evaluations.

Among the strategies and tools espoused in the guidance are:

  • Employing multi-year or option-year contracting.
  • Basing enrollment goals on a total participant count in a performance period.
  • Factoring participant characteristics and external factors into performance goals.
  • Creating positive incentives for youth service providers to enroll youth who are most in need of services and to provide services that will help such youths achieve success.