The Need for a New Approach
One in six youth between the ages of 18 and 24 are not in school nor are they working. They are attempting to reconnect by enrolling in many of the city's workforce development and educational programs. But many programs are struggling with budget cuts and scarce resources, unable to fully meet the complex case management needs of our youth—the key ingredient in helping youth succeed in securing employment. In response, CSS, a leader in researching gaps in workforce development as well as in providing exceptional case management services, created the Workforce Advocacy and Support Initiative (WASI) as a demonstration program to address the needs of disconnected youth and support community organizations working towards these goals in an innovative way. The program demonstration was completed in 2012.
It Starts with Strong Partnerships
WASI was designed to provide comprehensive wrap-around supports to young adults enrolled in community-based employment programs. Four programs were chosen to participate in this pilot, each hosting a CSS case manager four days per week. The WASI program borrowed from the private sector by “outsourcing” an area of program operations that is expensive and difficult for community-based organizations. This model requires close collaboration between CSS and the partners to not only ensure implementation is successful, but that each young adult is fully supported by both organizations.
Support for Youth in Transition
CSS case managers provided intensive support to young adults in myriad ways, but with the common goal of removing barriers to program completion, education attainment and employment. Case managers connected youth to benefits and services for health, nutrition, and housing; address concrete needs such as clothing and transportation; provided support around interpersonal problems; and encourage and motivate youth to face their issues head-on. The case managers spent as much time in the field accompanying the youth to appointments as they did working one-on-one in the office. CSS’s case managers were with the youth every step of the way, had the full support of other experts at CSS, and collaborated with the professionals at each of the programs—a true model of support!
Evaluating Our Work
Through the WASI pilot, CSS sought to determine the effectiveness of an alternative model of case management—in which skilled staff are recruited, trained, and supervised by a specialized provider, and paired with community-based employment programs that serve at-risk youth. CSS evaluated WASI’s effectiveness by looking at program completion, educational attainment, and employment rates of program participants, as well as determining the value-added to our partners.