In the heart of British Columbia, a program is making waves, changing the lives of youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who are getting ready to transition to post-secondary school and/or employment. The IMPACT Project, run by ten partners of the BC Employment Network and evaluated by the Canadian Institute of Inclusion and Citizenship (CIIC), is on a mission to evaluate and improve the prospects of these young adults. Over the past three years, this project has helped to empower youth and is now starting an exciting new phase, IMPACT 2.0.
Last month, we interviewed Rachelle Hole, co-director of the CIIC, about the IMPACT Project. Here is what we learned:
The Birth of IMPACT
Three years ago, the IMPACT Project started a research project to measure the effectiveness of early intervention programs for transitioning youth looking for work. The goal was to provide summer work programs that would help these young people build the skills and experience they needed to succeed in the job market.
This part of the project included three groups and engaged eight community living organizations. Over this time, more than 250 youth participated in various summer work intervention programs. Even though the first year of the project faced unexpected challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the project adapted so that both staff and youth could participate safely. The results were very positive.
Most of the youth who participated gained valuable work experience; close to 50% gained paid employment. The outcomes of IMPACT 1.0 were so promising that funding was secured for another three years, leading to the birth of IMPACT 2.0.
IMPACT 2.0: A New Chapter
IMPACT 2.0 has started a new stage of the project. Of the ten organizations participating, five of them are using the recommended approach based on the successful strategies from the first phase of the project. The remaining five organizations are continuing with the approach they already use. This strategy will compare the approaches and uncover the most effective strategies for helping youth transition into employment.
Challenges and Findings
While the IMPACT Project has achieved great success, there have also been challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the project to adapt quickly to make sure everyone could participate safely. Additionally, the project uncovered interesting information related to gender inequalities in employment outcomes. At first, more males participated and secured paid employment, but proactive steps to include more women led to a more balanced outcome by the third year. This highlighted the importance of addressing gender biases in employment support.
Furthermore, the project challenged mistaken beliefs about support needs, showing that people with higher support needs can find paid employment when given the right support and guidance.
The Role of Research
The success of the IMPACT Project can be attributed to its thorough research and evaluation methods. By carefully measuring outcomes and assessing support needs, the project has been able to tailor its activities for maximum impact. A dedicated research team oversees these parts of the project, making sure that the project continues to evolve and adapt based on evidence and best practices.
A Promising Future
As IMPACT 2.0 continues, it promises more insights into the strategies that empower transitioning youth and improve their chance of employment. With a focus on research-driven activities and a commitment to inclusivity, the IMPACT Project is a beacon of hope for young adults seeking employment and a brighter future.
For more information on the project, including a deep dive into the statistics and success stories, the BC Employment Network website has reports and videos that highlight the journey undertaken by transitioning youth and the organizations that support them.
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