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Program Profile: JOBSTART

Evidence Rating: No Effects - One study No Effects - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 14, 2011

Program Summary

A school and community-based program designed to increase academic skills and job placement among economically disadvantaged youths with poor reading skills and low job prospects. The program is rated No Effects. The treatment group did not have significantly different outcomes than the control group across most outcome measures. The researchers noted that the resources devoted to JOBSTART exceeded the benefits produced.

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Goals
JOBSTART was created by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) and its partner organizations and funded by the Job Training Partnership Act of 1982. The goal was to address the high numbers of high school dropouts and provide them with an alternative source of education and vocational training in hopes of leading them to better and higher paying jobs. JOBSTART concentrates on four core components:


·         Education

·         Occupational training

·         Support services

·         Job placement assistance


Target Population/Eligibility
JOBSTART targets high school dropouts and economically disadvantaged youths. Because of the intertwining of socioeconomic status and race, many participants were minority youths with poor reading skills who were receiving some form of public assistance.

Program Activities
JOBSTART was modeled after the residential Job Corps program but was designed to be more cost effective. Instead of the intensive comprehensive support services and financial compensation offered at Job Corps residential centers, JOBSTART would provide the same basic components of the program but in a nonresidential setting. The JOBSTART program instructed youths in basic academic skills, concentrating on increasing communication, literacy levels, and math skills. In addition, youths received vocational/occupational skills training. Instructors in a classroom setting combined theory and hands-on practice to prepare participants for jobs in growing sectors and high-demand occupations. Support services in the form of transportation assistance, child care, counseling, and work readiness and life skills training were also provided. Lastly, JOBSTART personnel also helped youths find jobs related to the training they had received, matching trainees with positions available in the local community.


Program Theory
The underlying theory behind JOBSTART is that a reinvestment and emphasis on educational attainment will result in better employment and long-term gains in earnings. Essentially, the program attempted to give youths a second chance and tried to improve their lives and earning potential by combining education classes with vocational training, making them better potential candidates and employees entering the workforce.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1

Although Cave and colleagues (1993) report some positive findings, the preponderance of evidence revealed null effects. The treatment group (youths receiving JOBSTART services) did not have significantly different outcomes than the control group (who received no services) across most outcome measures. The researchers noted that the resources devoted to JOBSTART exceeded the benefits produced for society.



In the treatment group, 42 percent earned a high school diploma or GED equivalent, compared with 28.6 percent in the control group. This difference between groups is primarily the result of youths’ in the treatment group earning GEDs, rather than staying in high school and earning their high school diplomas. JOBSTART did not make an impact on school attendance or dropout rates. Instead, JOBSTART youths were given educational classes and had the second chance to take the general equivalency test and earn their GEDs.



At the 12-month follow-up point, 56.5 percent of the treatment group had worked at some point during the previous year, compared with 60.8 percent of the control group. This difference in employment is due to those in the treatment group participating in JOBSTART training and thus not having as much time or as many opportunities to work as the control group, who could find work on their own or use other services that may not have been so intensive. Researchers expected this initial difference and theorized that, after receiving JOBSTART services, the treatment group would surpass the control group in later years. However, they did not. By the 24-month follow-up point, the treatment group had surpassed the control group: 71.0 percent had worked in the past year, compared with 67.5 percent in the control group. But by years 3 and 4 of the study, there were no discernable differences in time spent employed between the two groups.



At the 1-year follow-up point, the treatment group had earned less on average than the control group. By the 3-year and 4-year year follow-up points, the treatment group had surpassed the control group, earning approximately $400 more per capita a year. However, this difference was small and not statistically significant. 


Only 1 site out of 13 demonstrated a strong earnings effect, and this applied to only 1 subgroup. Single-parent, minority females attending the Center for Employment Training in San Jose, Calif., earned substantially more than their control counterparts.


Receipt of Public Assistance
Overall, JOBSTART demonstrated little to no impact on the receipt of public assistance among youths involved in the program. There were small differences for subsample comparisons, but most of these comparisons were not statistically significant.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Cave and colleagues (1993) evaluated JOBSTART using an experimental design with random assignment to treatment and control groups across 13 sites from 1985 to 1988. The 13 sites ranged from community-based organizations to schools to Job Corp Centers. The six community based sites were Buffalo, N.Y.; New York, N.Y.; Hartford, Conn.; San Jose, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; and Corpus Christi, Texas. The three vocational school sites were Pittsburgh, Pa.; Monterey Park, Calif.; and Denver, Colo. The three Job Corps Center sites were located in Atlanta, Ga.; Los Angeles, Calif.; and Phoenix, Ariz. The last site was in Dallas, Texas.
This evaluation builds on early research on the more intensive residential Job Corps program; research that found its services raised young people’s earnings without burdening taxpayers. Youths who applied for the program were randomly assigned to receive JOBSTART services or a control condition. The evaluation sample across all sites was 2,312 youths who received follow-up surveys at 12, 24, 36, and 48 months after random assignment.
The final analyses were conducted on 1,941 youth (84 percent of the initial sample) for whom there was complete follow-up data at all four assessments over the 4-year study. The control condition left youth free to access other services in the community without receiving anything from the JOBSTART program. There were no significant differences between the treatment and control groups in any background or demographic variables. The treatment and control groups consisted of 988 and 953 youths, respectively.
An experimental design was used to determine the impact that JOBSTART made on education, employment, earnings, and receipt of public assistance. The researchers also conducted a cost–benefit analysis to determine whether the investment in JOBSTART yielded subsequent returns to taxpayers.
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As part of the evaluation, Cave and colleagues (1993) conducted a cost–benefit analysis and determined that JOBSTART did not receive a return on its investment. Specifically, JOBSTART services cost about $4,500 per treatment group participant, and these groups’ earnings and other quantifiable benefits did not equal or surpass the initial investment. The losses that treatment group participants experienced in the first year of the study were too large, and later increases were not substantial enough to break even.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Cave, George, Hans Bos, Fred Doolittle, and Cyril Toussaint. 1993. “JOBSTART: Final Report on a Program for School Dropouts.” New York, NY: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation MDRC.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Burghardt, John and Peter Z. Schochet. 2001. “National Job Corps Study: Impacts by Center Characteristics.” Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Gritz, Mark R., and Terry Johnston. 2001. “National Job Corps Study: Assessing Program Effects on Earnings for Students Achieving Key Program Milestones.” Seattle, Wash.: Battelle Memorial Institute.

McConnell, Sheena, and Steven Glazerman. 2001. “National Job Corps Study: The Benefits and Costs of Job Corps.” Washington, D.C.: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Noncustodial Employment Programs for Ex-Offenders
This practice involves job training and career development for offenders with a recent criminal record in order to increase employment and reduce recidivism. These programs take place outside of the traditional custodial correctional setting, after offenders are released. The practice is rated No Effects in reducing criminal behavior for participants in noncustodial employment training programs compared with those who did not participate.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types

Dropout Prevention Programs
School- or community-based programs targeting frequently absent students or students at risk of dropping out of school. These programs are aimed at increasing school engagement, school attachment, and the academic performance of students, with the main objective of increasing graduation rates. The practice is rated Effective for reducing rates of school dropouts, and rated Promising for improving test scores/grades, graduation rates, and attendance.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Education - Dropout
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Academic achievement/school performance
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Graduation
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Attendance/truancy
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Program Snapshot

Age: 17 - 21

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Hispanic

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): School, Workplace, Other Community Setting

Program Type: Academic Skills Enhancement, Alternative School, School/Classroom Environment, Vocational/Job Training

Targeted Population: Truants/Dropouts

Current Program Status: Not Active

Fred Doolittle
President/ Director K-12 Education Policy Area
16 East 34 Street 19th Floor
New York NY 10016-4346
Phone: 212.340-8638
Fax: 212.684.0932