NExTWORK is a new active labour market programme (ALMP) in Denmark which aims to improve match quality between companies offering internships and out-of-work youth, as well to recognise and address the barriers youth face in productive engagement in education and the labour market.
The two key features that distinguish NExTWORK from the Danish government programme, as well as other programmes evaluated in the literature are: (1) ‘many-to-many’ matching of youth to internship opportunities through a network of local firms; and (2) a youth counsellor led peer-support group for the participating youth - in which trained facilitators use a narrative approach to build work identity and foster positive development among the youth. The aim is for the youth to acquire the experience and skills they need in order to progress into either education or employment. The government support currently provided to disconnected youth in Denmark includes CV preparation, life-skills, math and literacy courses, and (caseworker assigned) company internships. The youth are assigned to all of these by their municipal case-worker and is obliged to attend them in order to continue receiving benefit payments.
The programme is designed around 3 core principles, many-to-many, shift of power, and work identity. The first of these principles, many-to-many, focusses on building networks – and thus social capital - between young people and companies. In order to facilitate a productive and relevant match between the youth and companies, NExTWORK adopts a network approach which allows young people to meet and interact with many companies offering different work experience opportunities.
The second principle, shift-of-power, aims to empower the youth and increase their confidence in themselves. A key element of this is that it gives the participating youth a genuine choice in selecting the workplace for the internship, to ensure that it is meaningful for them. The young people are also encouraged to identify their own goals for their involvement in NExTWORK and thereby set their own direction for their route out of unemployment. Likewise, the companies are involved in developing and running the company network, and have a say in selecting the young people they would like to support and enrol as interns.
Through the third principle, work identity, NExTWORK aims to give the young people an opportunity to develop their work identity as a crucial step in finding direction towards education and work. The core focus is for the young people to be exposed to different work experiences and through sharing these experiences in a peer-support group facilitated by a NExTWORK consultant, to qualify these experiences as useful knowledge and skills and thereby strengthen their sense of "being a person capable of having a job". Work identity is primarily developed from these interactions in their peer-support group and through feedback from the company contact person and secondarily through 1:1 support provided by their youth counsellor.
The intervention itself will be run until at least 900 youth have been randomised into treatment, which is expected to occur in early 2021. Due to a time lag between the end of intervention and the availability of the register data required for the evaluation, full short-run impacts are not expected to be published until at least 18 months after this sample floor has been reached. Due to various lock-in effects, impacts for some outcomes will only be identifiable over a longer time horizon than this - thus a long-run impact evaluation will also take place at around 3 years after the randomisation of the 900th youth.
Due to the expected presence of a "bedding-in" period in which fidelity may be poor (for instance due to staff taking time to learn to competently apply the programme's principles), a sensitivity analysis will be included in the impact evaluations. Analyses will be performed on both the full sample, and on a sub-sample which excludes any individuals who were randomised in the first three months of the trial within a municipality.