Workforce Development & Economic Justice

Work Progress Project (WPP)
Funder: NYC Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity 
Project Time Period: 2016-2022

Project Category: Youth Development/Workforce Development/Subsidized Employment/Implementation & Outcomes Evaluation

About WPP: NYC Human Resources Administration (HRA) and the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity) partnered in 2012 to launch the Work Progress Program (WPP) as one new strategy to address the needs of the city’s young adults. WPP was designed to complement the work of community-based organizations (CBOs) working with young people by funding an add-on subsidized job component to their existing programming. The goal is to introduce young people to work experiences that might be hard to obtain without a work history, build their professional skills, and support them during their engagement with the program. Through WPP, HRA reimburses providers for wages or stipends paid to low-income young adults (aged 16-24) who have been placed in short-term work experiences that typically last 12 weeks. Currently, the WPP program works with over 50 CBOs throughout New York City and has a special emphasis on serving out-of-school and out-of-work youth, NYCHA residents, young people who identify as LGBTQI+, and runaway, homeless, and/or in shelter youth.

The Work: MAI conducted a mixed-methods evaluation of WPP on behalf of HRA and NYC Opportunity. The two central components of the evaluation were the quantitative and qualitative studies. The quantitative study focused on several key outcomes for young adults who participated in WPP: program completion, employment, and educational achievement. The qualitative study examined the benefits and challenges of WPP for participating CBOs.

What We Learned: Our report presents findings from both an implementation study and an outcomes study, combining in-depth interviews with staff at 15 CBOs with participant-level data collected by CBOs and the New York State Department of Labor. The report describes both the broader picture of the benefits and challenges of WPP for participating CBOs, as well as the outcomes for program participants. We found that:

    • WPP supports and improves CBOs’ work with young people, facilitating career exploration, career exposure, and learning how to work.
    • Participating CBOs reported satisfaction with WPP and greatly value the funding it provides.
    • While CBOs said WPP was a valued source of funding, a challenge raised is that it only can be used to reimburse for participant wages, so CBOs incur costs administering the program that have to be covered by their own budgets.
    • About one-half of participants completed their subsidized job hours; however, at youth development-focused CBOs, completion was nearly universal. Participants at youth development focused CBOs comprised 14% of the study sample.
    • A majority (82%) of program participants experienced employment at some point during the year following their subsidized job. A third of participants (33%) experienced employment in all four quarters in the year following WPP.
    • In the four quarters following WPP, average earnings were $8,3552 for participants who experienced employment. [Note that some portion of young people in WPP are in school and not working].
    • Participants who completed their WPP work experiences were statistically more likely to be employed following WPP and earn more in the year following WPP.