Heller Research Results in Continuation of Indiana Youth Program

October 16, 2006

Youth Employment Services, an innovative program that helps at-risk young people in Indianapolis get education or training, find jobs and overcome the obstacles that prevent them from pursuing promising careers, will continue for three more years, thanks to a $3.75 million grant that Lilly Endowment Inc. has made to the Indianapolis Private Industry Council, Inc. (IPIC).

YES funds 15 organizations throughout Indianapolis that offer employment programs designed for at-risk youths and young adults ages 15-25. A key component of YES funding is for vouchers to pay for items and issues that may stand between them and education or a job, such as child care; tools for new mechanics or carpenters; legal bills; utilities bills; gasoline; home detention fees; bus passes; and school tuition.

The federal government provides funding for services for young people ages 14-21 who have a low income and who face at least one social barrier (He or she is deficient in basic literacy skills; is a dropout; is homeless, a runaway or a foster child; is pregnant or a parent; was an offender; or needs additional assistance). Some services are provided in a few schools, while most are provided to out-of-school youths through the six WorkOne centers in Marion County.

The grant supplements the federal program and allows IPIC and its service providers to expand its reach to help young people who cannot be served with the federal funds. YES funding also is more flexible and creative than the federally funded program, including offering the barrier-busting vouchers.

"We at IPIC are overwhelmed by Lilly Endowment’s generosity and vision," said Joanne Joyce, IPIC’s president and chief executive officer. "We also are grateful for the faith that the Endowment has placed in us.

"Most important, we are excited for the young people whose lives will be transformed because of YES. This generous grant will make it possible to help several thousands more of our most challenged young people get on a path toward self-sufficiency."

Lilly Endowment previously funded YES for three years and, during that time, more than 1,260 youths and young adults enrolled to receive services, including 5,300 vouchers to overcome obstacles or pay for education. YES provided intensive employment-readiness and job-search services to more than 900 of these youths, with 123 of them earning their General Educational Development diploma; 620 youths completing job training; and more than 530 young people having been placed in jobs or postsecondary education.

YES has been the subject of a long-term evaluation by Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management in Boston.

"Small things like a broken headlight, an overdue rent check and no funds for a uniform can make the difference between succeeding in a GED or training program or not," said Andrew Hahn, the Heller School professor who oversees the evaluation.

"Community-based programs with an emphasis on high-quality employability-development programming for out-of-school young people can also make a difference.

"Our research on the YES initiative shows that, indeed, when community-based organizations are strengthened and when vouchers for bill paying are made available to help program participants continue on the path to self-sufficiency, very good outcomes can be achieved," he said. "We are pleased to see the YES initiative supported for another round of programming and believe that the simple formula of vouchers and strong community-based organizations is a combination that other cities should consider."

A survey of 321 YES participants taken in July and August found that 99 percent said vouchers helped them achieve . The survey also found that 69 percent of YES participants who received TANF benefits before enrolling in YES no longer receive such benefits and 36 percent of those who received food stamps no longer do so. Of those who were unemployed before YES, 66 percent are working, 8 percent are in school and 4 percent are in job training. Eighty-two percent of those who were not in stable housing before YES now are and 84 percent of those who were homeless on one or more occasions before YES now are in stable housing.

Media Contact

The Heller School welcomes media inquiries on this and all other news items. Email  Mary Dieter, Indianapolis Private Industry Council or call 317-684-2431.

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