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Policy and Research Publications Online Reports

Retention in the United States Job Corps: Analysis and Recommendations (2000)

Though this report is about the United States Job Corps, every youth program struggles with attrition. Our hope is that other programs may be able to gather insight relevant to their operations from these data and may learn more through the changes Job Corps may implement based upon these findings. Job Corps gathers data on the nearly 70,000 students per year who participate in the program. Existing intake and exit data can begin to answer several of the above questions. Because the data record how long each individual stays, it can easily describe how many students drop out and when they leave. The data hold the potential of answering the pivotal question ¿Which students drop out?¿ The challenge is in carefully and fairly categorizing students. The existing database can certainly point to trends and associations between easily measured characteristics (e.g., gender, age, race, socioeconomic status) and length of stay. However, these easily measured characteristics only begin to describe people; they tell you little of their experience, their expectations, or their potential. Thus, simplistically describing students poses a real danger of overgeneralization. There would be two ways in which rigorous research could better elucidate which students drop out. The most useful associations between student characteristics and retention could be made if the existing database included more descriptive student data (e.g., student learning style, personality style, motivation, resiliency, and emotional state) and a detailed record of each student¿s experience within Job Corps. Because this database currently does not exist, quantitative analysis remains limited in explaining retention. Alternatively, qualitative research can gain detailed insight from experts (students and those staff who relate to them). Their insight can produce plausible explanations of the dropout process, and can thereby generate hypotheses about the forces at play when a student chooses to stay or to leave. Qualitative data, however, is limited in its ability to demonstrate the direct associations that would confirm these contributors¿ hypotheses. This report utilizes a mixed quantitative-qualitative approach to draw from the strengths of both methodologies. It takes advantage of the extensive data Job Corps collects on its students as well as available information on each student¿s experience with the program. However, because the database leaves many student and program characteristics unmeasured and does not detail students¿ perceptions or experiences in the program, qualitative research supplements the analysis. Five centers were visited where group techniques, interviews, and observation were used to collect the student and staff viewpoint on retention. In addition, a series of surveys was used to engage Center Directors and Orientation Managers in a process whereby they generated, prioritized, and explained their views on the issues that affect retention. [Click Here] to View the Executive Summary Report in .PDF

[Click Here] to View the Complete Report Report in .PDF

There are 205 pages in this report.


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