In January 2015, YouthBuild USA and the Center for Youth and Communities at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management began a three-year study of the relative impacts of construction and non-construction-related service experiences for participants in YouthBuild USA’s AmeriCorps programs. The study, designed to meet the evaluation requirements of YouthBuild’s national AmeriCorps grant, grew out of the increasing involvement of YouthBuild AmeriCorps programs in non-construction training and service in the fields of healthcare, digital divide, recycling, and conservation. While creating new opportunities for occupational training and service, the development of pathways outside of construction also raises critical questions for the YouthBuild AmeriCorps program: To what extent do the service experiences provided through these non-construction service pathways provide the same kinds of personal and leadership development opportunities traditionally gained through the construction program? Are YouthBuild AmeriCorps participants gaining an understanding of the needs of their community and a sense of connection and community involvement through these pathways equivalent to that gained through construction-related service? Is there a difference between construction and non-construction service in the degree to which participants are motivated to complete the program, acquire a secondary credential, and pursue postsecondary education?
The YouthBuild AmeriCorps Service Pathways study was designed to address these questions through a comparative study of the outcomes for participants in traditional YouthBuild AmeriCorps construction programs and those participating in other service paths. The study focused on a representative sample of 31 YouthBuild AmeriCorps sites nationally. The study design included administration of baseline and post-program surveys for all YouthBuild AmeriCorps program participants entering YouthBuild in the sample sites between April 2015 and March 2016, with post-program surveys administered to those participants on a rolling basis as they complete their programs.