The overall score for this Request for Proposals is 56 percent, which makes this RFP a moderate risk for applicants.
This request for proposals (“RFP”) is for the implementation of the Advance & Earn Program, which provides education and workforce development programs to young adults ages 16 to 24 who are not in school and not working. This new program combines the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development’s (“DYCD”) Young Adult Literacy Program and Intern & Earn.
The goal of the Advance & Earn Program is “to promote opportunity youth along the Career Pathways continuum by preparing them for employment, postsecondary education, or advanced training.” This new program consists of three components: pre-HSE instruction for youth who have fourth to eighth grade reading levels and do not have high school diplomas or HSE credentials, HSE preparation for youth who have ninth grade or higher reading levels and do not have high school diplomas or HSE credentials, and advanced training for youth who have high school diplomas or HSE credentials.
DYCD is the contracting agency, in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity) and the NYC Young Men’s Initiative (YMI), and the anticipated contract start date is November 1, 2019.
The Human Services Council and its members commend DYCD in offering a more intensive and comprehensive program that supports the Career Pathways framework to engaging youth. We also appreciate the increase in funding provided to support a more holistic program and to ensure that nonprofits can deliver quality services.
Inflexibility in Training
There is a lack of flexibility in the training component. DYCD encourages contractors to “propose innovative trainings within or outside the priority sectors that lead to jobs with better than average wages and/or solid opportunities for career advancement”; however, this RFP only allows 20 week cycles which limits training options. There are some training programs that require a longer period to complete and participants would not have access to these programs that may give them better opportunities for career advancement.
Unclear Reporting Requirements
The RFP states that vendors would have to participate in monitoring and evaluation activities which may include “site visits, surveys, interviews, focus groups, administrative records reviews, and other data collection and evaluation strategies.” The RFP does not provide details of the specific evaluation related activities contractors will be undertaking and subject to. While evaluation is essential, it can be very costly and providers should be compensated for related costs. The RFP also mentions that vendors may be asked to participate in “a randomized control trial or comparison study, which may involve conducting additional outreach, implementing a random assignment procedure, or assisting with collecting data on a comparison group of youth who are not participating in Advance & Earn. A randomized control trial would require a lot more resources than provided, including recruiting more participants, which is an additional cost and burden. Providers should be given this information beforehand so that they can be better prepared programmatically, operationally and financially to arrange these activities.
Potential Risks for Community
We appreciate the need to test new programs before scaling them, and believe DYCD has taken many steps to improving the funding and approach of this new program and will work with providers to evaluate this approach over the coming years. Limiting the program size and scope does have risks to the community that while understandable, need to be included in risk assessment.
The Advance & Earn RFP seeks to fund six programs, with at least one program in each borough; a total of 900 slots. This is a significant reduction in the number of programs and young people served compared to the Young Adult Literacy Program and Intern & Earn Program currently in place. We realize that the Advance & Earn Program offers more intensive services and a better model; however, we must acknowledge that this leaves many youth unserved. Having a single program in each borough is also likely to make participation by some youth challenging. Many would have to contemplate the commute to the program, especially for those living in more disconnected areas and making a connection to an unfamiliar organization is likely to be a challenge.
Although the RFP encourages contractors to recruit “vulnerable populations”, there is no mechanism to serve undocumented youth. Regardless of immigration status, the Advance & Earn Program should be available and accessible to all youth. Providers should have the flexibility to be innovative and creative in serving the undocumented population by offering non-monetary incentives such as gift cards since they are not able to receive a stipend or salary. Also, those young people who are waiting to be documented could benefit from the literacy component, work readiness and career exploration activities while they wait to obtain job training and eventually receive monetary compensation.
Overall this is RFP carries moderate risk. DYCD has made positive changes to the model, but some elements, such as the unfunded reporting requirements present some risks nonprofits applying should consider. The reduction in available slots is also potentially problematic, although we are hopeful that the program model will prove to be effective and ultimately expanded.
The HSC RFP Rater assesses the feasibility, opportunities, and risk in City and State human services procurements. Rater scores are based on the RFP and related documents available to the public via New York City’s HHS Accelerator or New York State’s Grants Gateway. The rater consists of 60 questions developed and tested by a team of procurement professionals. The questions are based on information that is necessary to help prospective proposers assess risk.
Each answer is weighted based on the degree of risk inherent in the subject of the question. Answers that imply low to moderate risk are allotted points on a lower scale range compared to higher risk questions. For compound questions, the answer to both parts must be “yes” or “not applicable” to be considered low risk. Scores are calculated by adding all the question scores together. The higher the score, the greater the risk. The scoring range is from 60 to 230, with 0 percent risk equal to a score of 60 and the maximum risk score or 100 percent equal to 230 points. Users can view the answer to each question by clicking the down arrow next to each section to expand the section.
The HSC RFP Rater is not a substitute for the due diligence necessary to inform individual organization decisions.