Session: Capitalizing On Policy: Designing Youth Employment And Service Programs With An Emphasis On Positive Development (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

20 Capitalizing On Policy: Designing Youth Employment And Service Programs With An Emphasis On Positive Development

Cluster: Adolescent and Youth Development

Trina Shanks, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor , Amanda Moore McBride, PhD, Washington University in Saint Louis , Michael Sherraden, PhD, Washington University in Saint Louis , Paula Allen-Meares, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago , Leslie D. Hollingsworth, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor , Larry M. Gant, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and Suzanne R. Pritzker, MSW, MEd, Washington University in Saint Louis
Thursday, January 14, 2010: 3:30 PM-5:15 PM
Garden Room A (Hyatt Regency)
Recent policy proposals provide promising opportunities for social workers that serve youth. Specific mandates for employment programs can be found in the stimulus bill (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) and similar recommendations for service programs can be found in the Serve America Act. In response, it is important to not only fulfill requirements, but also design quality programs that promote positive youth development and intentionally help young people better transition into adulthood. There are many approaches to evaluating how and whether adolescents successfully transition into young adulthood (e.g. Dryfoos, 1998; Gambone, Klem & Connell, 2002). Under both classifications, about 40% of adolescents and young adults are doing well or at low risk, with somewhere between 23 and 35% not doing well or at high risk. Research suggests that supportive adult relationships, challenging activities and participation in age appropriate decision-making are crucial developmental supports for young people regardless of the setting (Gambone et. al., 2002). Not many universal alternatives are available to help more young people receive such support, particularly when school or educational success has not proven to be an effective pathway. Both youth employment and structured service programs are possible options that show promise and could be more strategically utilized. Employment could entail summer employment, corporate internships or year-round part-time positions. Meaningful involvement could take place in the context of a national service model or service learning projects within both community and educational settings.

The roundtable will begin a dialogue about the history, current research and potential impact of both youth employment and structured service. The primary aim of this session is to explore ways to summarize and improve research knowledge on employment and structured service in order to generate a broad set of strategies that capitalize on policy openings while also effectively meeting the development needs of young people. The first presentation will begin with an overview of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) of the 1930s and a critique of current structured service and employment programs. The next presentations will summarize what we know about best practice for effective youth employment and structured service programs, focusing on both educational and employment outcomes, mostly for youth ages 18 or under, but occasionally highlighting programs that go up to age 24. Evidence for effective employment programs points to implementation quality; caring, knowledgeable adults; high standards and expectations; a holistic approach; including community members and incorporating community service; work-based learning; and maintaining long-term support and follow-up. Considering policy/program attributes in structured service, there is evidence to suggest the following are necessary for employment outcomes: substantive instruction; engagement of the volunteer in the determination of their tasks; task supervision; career mentorship (connecting the tasks to the next steps); and life skills feedback (e.g., dress, manners, work ethic, etc.). By discussing youth employment and structured service together, we hope to encourage an understanding of innovative approaches and common themes that can help strengthen program development as well as shape policy definition.

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