ERIC Identifier: ED321158
Publication Date: 1990-00-00
Author: Lowry, Cheryl Meredith
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult Career and Vocational Education
Helping At-Risk Youth Make the School-to-Work Transition.
The changing demographics of the U.S. work force mean that programs
and services to help youth make a successful transition from school to
work will be increasingly needed throughout this decade. Such services
are necessary if women, minorities, and immigrants are to make up the predicted
80 percent of new workers by the year 2000, and if the United States is
to be successful in an increasingly competitive world marketplace.
This ERIC DIGEST is based on Feichtner (1989), a synthesis of research
on school-to-work transition. The digest describes transition services
and the youth who need them, lists programmatic barriers to effective delivery
of services, describes models for service delivery, and discusses successful
SERVICES AND AT-RISK YOUTH
School-to-work transition services are intended to help youth develop
the skills and attitudes they need to find and keep employment, to obtain
and maintain a meaningful adult life-style, and to develop positive social
interactions. The most accepted outcome measure of success for transition
service programs is the eventual employment of the at-risk youth. A wide
array of services may be necessary, including legal help, housing services,
health care, financial aid, employment assistance, career guidance, basic
skills education, occupational training, language assistance, transportation,
and child care.
The concept of providing school-to-work transition services originated
in an attempt to bridge the gap between the secondary school's protective
environment and adult life, including employment, for disabled students.
Service eligibility has now been broadened to include students with economic
or educational disadvantages and youth who are not proficient in English.
Other groups who may need special transition services include teenage parents,
displaced homemakers, displaced workers, and incarcerated youth and adults.
Transition services have been promoted and shaped by federal legislation.
Feichtner cites 12 such laws and 4 policy initiatives and priorities, including
the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, Rehabilitation Act, Carl
D. Perkins Vocational Education Act, and Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA).
The fact that services are provided under the auspices of multiple laws,
agencies, guidelines, and policies has caused some problems.
Feichtner identifies programmatic (as opposed to societal) barriers
to the effective delivery of transition services to at-risk youth. The
most significant of these barriers is the lack of a mandated systematic
process for delivering the services. Other barriers are as follows:
1. Lack of coordination between agencies, which often results in competitive
and duplicative efforts
2. Confusion among parents and youths about what programs and services
3. Limited use of parents as resources
4. Lack of case managers for secondary students with disadvantages or
limited English proficiency
5. Lack of career exploration programs in middle schools
6. Absence of a computerized information management system to control
the vast amount of information needed for transition decision making and
Four types of models describe aspects of an effective service delivery
CURRICULUM CONTENT MODELS
Programs designed around these models attempt to provide the content
knowledge and basic, interpersonal, social, employability, and occupational
skills the youths need to become employable.
INSTRUCTIONAL STAGES MODELS
Programs based on these models consider the transition from school to
work as a developmental process that occurs in four stages: career awareness,
exploration, preparation, and implementation. Because these models view
transition as a lifelong process made continuous by shifting job requirements
and work patterns, they incorporate multiple transition points--not just
the one after secondary school.
SUPPORTIVE SERVICES MODELS
These programs offer services intended to overcome disadvantages--medical
treatment, transportation, child care, financial assistance, equipment
purchase, diagnosis, evaluation, counseling, assessment, language assistance,
recreation, protection, and job placement.
ARTICULATION AND COMMUNICATION MODELS
These models focus on coordination among the many transition-related
organizations, including federal agencies that identify needed legislation
and develop the regulations and guidelines for implementing it, state agencies
that initiate and facilitate collaboration, and local agencies that implement
the collaboration that results in successful transition.
Successful transition service practices include (1) the availability
and identification of a wide array of community services; (2) systematic
procedures for prescribing appropriate services; (3) articulation between
those services; and (4) systematic tracking of information regarding the
availability, cost, and evaluation of services.
ARRAY OF SERVICES
Because the needs of at-risk youth are so diverse, program success depends
largely on having available and having identified a variety of services
to meet those needs.
Systematic procedures for prescribing appropriate services are necessary
because the prescriptions must reflect the complicated needs and options
of individual youths. Several techniques are often involved in systematic
procedures, including individualized plans, case managers, transition planning
guides, transition assistance centers, and parent resource centers.
Transition is facilitated through the use of an Individualized Education
Plan, Individualized Training Plan, or Individualized Vocational Education
Plan. Such plans typically list the abilities, skills, interests, aptitudes,
achievements, and knowledge of the student as they relate to various occupational
goals. Each plan is developed by a team that includes parents. The team
is headed by a case manager if the youth is a disabled secondary student.
Out-of-school youth who receive bilingual vocational training or JTPA services
may also have a case manager. However, there are no formalized case managers
identified for secondary students with disadvantages or limited English
Some states have published transition planning guides that describe
in detail the transition services that are available and the process through
which they can be obtained. Some guides provide space in which individuals
can document the process as it occurs.
ARTICULATION OF SERVICES
Successful programs are skillful at articulating their services to avoid
duplication and omission. They link services at all levels so that students
can move from one course, program, or service to another--between or within
agencies. Successful articulation depends on linkages between the people
who provide services at the various agencies. The linkages can be both
within single agencies or institutions and between multiple agencies or
State-level interagency agreements are one mechanism that Feichtner
cites as useful in facilitating collaboration between agencies. Examples
are as follows:
1. The Texas Interagency Agreement for the Provision of Statewide Transition
Services, in which three state agencies agreed to develop jointly a strategic
plan designating personnel, funds, timelines, and evaluation criteria for
services; develop a coordinated process for screening, diagnosis, and program
development; and implement a plan for cost-sharing, joint funding, and
2. The California Compact, under which California employers, two state
departments, and a federal department worked to establish long-term public-private
partnerships to help disadvantaged youth. Among the Compact's goals are
to provide motivation, support, and information necessary for students
to stay in school; and to provide financial aid, information, and scholarships
for postsecondary education.
3. The Boston Compact, in which the city school department, the business
community, higher education institutions, and the JTPA private industry
council work to improve the educational performance and opportunities of
disadvantaged students. Among the goals are increasing school attendance
by 5 percent, expanding an existing work-study program from 3 to 6 of the
city's 17 high schools, increasing postsecondary enrollment by 25 percent,
and providing career counseling, screening, and employment referral.
Feichtner cites four principles for interagency collaboration that resulted
from the work of 35 representatives of education, county government, adult
services providers, employers, and parents in Montgomery County, Maryland:
1. Establish a common vocabulary for describing the programs, services,
and procedures so each member understands the entire transition process
2. Identify each organization's area of expertise, the resources each
will contribute, and what each will get out of the arrangement
3. Have each organization indicate how clients can gain access to its
services and what treatment clients can expect
4. Design service collaboration to alleviate rather than impose responsibilities
A good example of intra-agency cooperation is the Extended Opportunity
Programs and Services at Hartnell College in California. The program was
designed to recruit, retrain, graduate, and/or facilitate transfer of disadvantaged
and minority students. It provides intensive assistance in admissions,
registration, financial aid, curriculum planning, tutoring, counseling
(including peer counseling), and university transfer.
SYSTEMATIC TRACKING OF INFORMATION
A database management system to coordinate information about students'
needs and to match those needs with available programs and services is
needed to keep the delivery of transition services from becoming fragmented
and ineffective. Feichtner points out that such a system can also be used
for cost-benefit analysis and for conducting basic research on the transition
This ERIC DIGEST is based on the following publication:
Feichtner, Sheila H. SCHOOL-TO-WORK TRANSITION FOR AT-RISK YOUTH. INFORMATION
SERIES NO. 339. Columbus: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational
Education, Center on Education and Training for Employment, The Ohio State
University, 1989. (ERIC No. ED 315 666).