Methods: From the original sample (n=601), this study included 265 HYA (ages 18-24) from agencies in Los Angeles (n=91), Austin (n=80), and Denver (n=94). The risk and resilience framework and the WIOA Youth Program’s 14 elements were used to identify relevant independent variables, including demographics, homelessness and legal history, mental health and substance use (using the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview), childhood abuse (using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire), coping (using the Coping Scale), resilience (using the Resilience Scale), peer associations, and income generation. The dependent variable was HYAs’ enrollment in school or vocational training. We used econometric methods and logistic regression to determine the likelihood of HYA being enrolled in school or vocational training.
Results: The overall model fit was strong (χ2=115.741 [df=23], p<.001). Results from the final model (n=254) suggest that several factors statistically influenced a young person’s likelihood of being enrolled in school or vocational training. Namely, HYA had increased likelihood of being enrolled in school or vocational training if they had received income from formal employment (OR=2.635, p<.001), had higher levels of family emotional support (OR=1.153, p<.001), had higher levels of adaptive sense of time (OR=1.049, p<.01), lived in Denver (OR=8.002, p<.001), and identified as Latino/a (compared to other minority groups, OR=3.161, p<.05). HYA had a decreased likelihood of being enrolled in school or vocational training if they had experienced recent detention (OR=0.464, p<.05) or reported previous physical neglect (OR=0.865, p<.01).
Conclusions and Implications: These findings suggest that the WIOA legislation does address many important risk and protective factors associated with enrollment in school and vocational training. However, there are some factors that youth-serving organizations and employment one-stop centers should consider screening for and addressing that are not mentioned in the WIOA legislation. These factors include histories of neglect and abuse, family emotional support, and youths’ adaptive sense of time. These findings should be considered when developing and improving workforce and educational policies that fund programs to enhance youths’ educational, training and employment outcomes.