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Sunday, December 10, 2023

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SDSU Program Gets Boost as U.S. Extends Collaboration to Assist Policymakers on Employment of Disabled Youth

SDSU’s Interwork Institute is one of the partners in a program funded by the Department of Labor to continue research, develop partnerships, and share best practices.
By SDSU News Team

The U.S. Department of Labor has approved a five-year extension in support of San Diego State University and three additional partners in a policy center to bolster employment of youth with disabilities.


The $7.5 million agreement, announced Sept. 7, funds continuing research, develop partnerships and sharing best practices at the Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth). The SDSU Interwork Institute, operated under the College of Education, serving as the identified Minority Serving Institution (MSI) is part of the project to drive equitable access to services and promote workforce inclusion for the more than 1.3 million youth between 16 and 24 who live with a disability.


Andrew Karhan, project director at Interwork Institute, said the center conducts research useful to policymakers at all levels of government, providing them “a non-partisan, informed lens” in the policy process.


“It’s really exciting to be able to now continue this work,” said Karhan, who moved to SDSU about a year ago following earlier involvement in the center at Cornell University.


Trends are encouraging, with figures from the past few years showing an uptick in employment rates both for youth and adults with disabilities, Karhan said. There are “some glimmers of hope that we’re beginning to get the right policy levers in place for improvement,” he said.


One recent policy brief from CAPE-Youth, however, identified opportunities to better support youth with disabilities who are in or aged out of foster care, who’ve been involved in the criminal justice system or who have experienced homelessness. The research looked specifically at assistance provided under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, Karhan said, and found support for job-seekers with disabilities “is not equal to what population statistics demonstrate.”


In another sphere, an ongoing project looks at the curricula of financial literacy programs, some of which can “benefit from revision to ensure the content remains meaningful to specific cultures.”


Future work at the center will look into equity of support in youth-serving like mental health access and other matters of opportunity for youth, he added.


That’s a priority for the Department of Labor as well.


“Expanding employment opportunities for disabled youth is critical to achieving workforce inclusion,” Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy Taryn Williams said in the announcement of the five-year award. “This cooperative agreement will fund research, develop partnerships and share evidence-based best practices to help identify new career pathways and improve transition outcomes for these young people.”


The center was launched in 2019 by the Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. The center will be led by the Council of State Governments, in partnership with SDSU- Interwork, the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University, and the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals.