Career-pathways models designed to prepare high school students for success in college and careers are proliferating in school districts around the country. Each typically includes a sequence of career/technical education courses in a broad career theme such as health or computer science. Some initiatives also offer work-based learning experiences for students, a smaller, personally responsive learning environment, and extra student support.
YouthForce NOLA is a career-pathway initiative that serves the city of New Orleans, where virtually all of the high schools are charter schools. With a strong emphasis on internships, it seeks to meet the needs of local employers in high-growth, high-wage sectors for skilled workers, while giving high school students an opportunity to get the training and support they need to find employment offering family-supporting wages. To that end, YouthForce NOLA is working to increase the percentage of high school graduates who complete internships to at least 10 percent, and the percentage who earn credentials before graduation to 20 percent.
MDRC is conducting a process and implementation study of the initial phase of YouthForce NOLA, documenting various stakeholders’ experiences implementing this ambitious model. One of the central objectives is to help the program’s designers understand the factors that either impede or promote the smooth implementation of this complex initiative. MDRC also hopes to conduct a study to estimate the impacts of the initiative on both short- and longer-term outcomes such as students’ employment and earnings and the rate at which they earn postsecondary credentials.