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Promoting Resilience Through Employment. Why Do Youth Need Jobs?. Dr. Gia Elise Barboza Department of African American Studies and Health Science Northeastern University Who Benefits From Youth Employment?. Present national data on youth employment

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promoting resilience through employment

Promoting Resilience Through Employment

Why Do Youth Need Jobs?

Dr. Gia Elise Barboza

Department of African American Studies and Health Science

Northeastern University

who benefits from youth employment
Who Benefits From Youth Employment?

Present national data on youth employment

Discuss my research from a local evaluation of a youth employment initiative

Draw conclusions about the benefits of youth employment

an initiative to end youth violence through employment
An Initiative to End Youth Violence Through Employment
  • In the context of high youth unemployment
    • The State Street Foundation in conjunction with the city of Boston and other stakeholders decided to support an initiative to address the problem of youth violence through a youth “jobs experiment”
  • My role was to implement a research methodology designed to evaluate the role of youth employment on youth developmental outcomes
neighborhood context of participatin g youth
Neighborhood Context of Participating Youth

Labor Force Attachment, Education and Crime in Areas of Concentrated Disadvantage

youth violence as a public health issue
Youth Violence as a Public Health “Issue”

Community Violence

Concentration of Homicides

  • The neutral and somewhat vague question “describe your community” posed to youth who participated in the focus groups was almost always met by a depiction of violence, crime and deviance characteristic of it.
  • Two primary responses to violence
what do youth see as causes of crime
What Do Youth See As Causes of Crime?

1) Boredomand not having anything to do;

2) Lack of money, a job and/or poverty;

3) Lack of empathy, lack of community and/or the failure to see the value of life (“Authority conflict” “Lack of empathetic understanding”” Youth not seeing the value of life” “Don’t understand how to respect”)

4) Guns/drugs (“Drugs and guns”)

5) Male/female relationship issues (“… that’s what my father thinks, be careful of a girl, that’s how a lot of people get killed, a lot of girls play games. It’s all girls, its not a certain race…”)

6) Lack of a proper education (“Our education system doesn’t have classes to teach youth how to be a citizen in a capitalistic society”); and

7) Negativesocialization coupled with a lack of positive socialization experiences and/or no positive role models (“the wrong path not being show the right path, looking with your eyes and seeing it and being like oh I wanna do that. You need someone there to tell you what you should be doing”).

given what i have said so far there are several points for prevention
Given what I have said so far… There are several points for prevention…
  • Youth Development and Mentoring
  • Youth Workforce Development and Education
  • Family Supports and Mental Health
  • Conflict Resolution and Social Skill Development
  • Community Capacity-Building
  • Public Awareness & Policy Initiatives

But where’s the leverage point??

some descriptive results
Some Descriptive Results

Summer 1, APTE and Summer 2 Research


Characteristics of Youth Participating in Employment Program

  • Personal Profile
    • 82% Black or African American
    • 36% Caribbean, 22% Latino/a,
    • 11% Cape Verdean
    • 48% Male
    • Average age: 17.4 years
  • Socioeconomic Characteristics
    • 69% Eligible for Free or Reduced Lunch
    • 57% receiving public assistance
    • 89% Reported Being Very Well Off or Fairly Well Off

Living Arrangements

63% Dorchester, 10% Mattapan, 25% Roxbury

23% Live in A Two Parent Family

School Characteristics

80% High School Students

17% Absent More Than 10 days or more

8.5% given 2 or more in-school suspensions

14% given 2 or more out of school suspensions

4.6% expelled

90% plan to graduate HS and go to college

17% attending summer school

92% taken MCAS; 45% passed all three subject areas

primary and ancillary trauma
Primary and Ancillary Trauma



  • Violence
    • Shot, stabbed or badly injured: 50%
    • Violence at home: 12%
    • Someone close gone to prison: 63%
  • Economic
    • Family member laid off last year (17%)
      • Youth who haven’t: 50% less likely to worry about money
  • Social
    • 1 in 3 say problems at home
    • 1 in 4 lived with someone addicted to drugs
    • Males who feel unfairly stopped by the police (75%)
    • 17% absent 10 or more days
  • Violence and Victimization
    • “Anger and my ego... My anger builds up over time...”
    • “Either die or go to jail...”
  • Lack of economic and social resources
    • “Everybody dies, not everybody lives...”
    • “I'm on my own, have to do it all myself...”
    • “I have nobody...”

68% said they could not stop thinking about something bad that’s happened to them


If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

  • “Care more about others”
  • “I want to change my procrastinative nature.”
  • “My aggressiveness, when I get aggressive I wanna hurt people”
  • “I spaz out real quick”
    • “My attitude. My anger and negativity comes from life as I see it.”
    • “I didn’t think of solutions, my attitude controlled my mind.”

How can this jobs program help?

“We want people to listen to us and hear our struggles.”

“It feels real good to get stuff off our chests and just vent.”

why are youth jobs important
Why Are Youth Jobs Important?

What attitude and behaviors changed through employment?


1. Increasing Life Skills

  • 94% learned at least 1 new skill
  • When asked what skills they learned, top responses
  • included
    • Patience and Problem Solving: (“learned to have a lot of patience, how to become a problem solver not a problem maker”)
    • How to communicate with others (“to share a lot, feelings”; “how to control my temper”; “I also learned how to be more social & participate more in class & it helped me more with public speaking”)
    • Leadership (“You see how much you influence the kids, how much they look up to you and stuff, so you wanna get them to work and help them out and stuff.”)
    • Teamwork (“I get to meet and work with new people.”)

2. Family Support

  • Wages used to support low-income families
    • 48% gave money to a parent or guardian
    • 36% used income to help pay bills such as rent, phone, electricity
    • “Earning money will help at home.”
  • Coping better with family problems
    • “I had issues at home to where going to work took those things off my mind.”
3 reductions in bad behavior
3. Reductions in Bad Behavior

“Risky Behavior”

“Deviant Behavior”

4 youth empowerment
4. Youth Empowerment



  • Goal Setting and Options
  • Academic Persistence
  • Social Capital and Supportive Adult Relationships
  • Self-control and an understanding of one’s environment
  • Capacity building to CBOs
  • Active participation in organizational decision-making
  • Critical reflection about social issues (eg violence, race, poverty)
  • Institutional access
  • Sense of community
how did the intervention work
How Did The Intervention Work?

What aspects of the program were most effective in changing behavior?


1. Teaching Problem Solving Skills (“I didn't think of solutions, my attitude controlled my mind...”)

2. Mentoring and Peer Influences (“I think that it has to do with what I’ve seen through my peers … the people they put in front of us…”)

3. Innovative Teaching and Classroom Structure (“In summer [math class] we built a family...”)

4. Establishing Trust (“The kids see that when we say something we come through, and it's in their best interest. This takes time...”)

5. Vocational Training and Employment (“I wanna say that once you started the job I learned that we are not kids anymore and we are professionals…”)

the most important reason to employ youth
The Most Important Reason To Employ Youth…
  • Facilitating pro-social skills
  • Empowering youth to make better choices
  • Providing a structured environment
  • Trauma From Violent Victimization
    • Being a victim of crime
    • Witnessing violence
    • Hearing about violence
    • Families of victims and perpetrators
  • Social Trauma
    • Social isolation
    • Social identity and race
    • Acculturation and stress
    • Individual vs. Societal responsibility
  • Economic Trauma
    • Not having a job
    • Not having money
    • Lack of education

Employment provides a context for addressing trauma

  • Mentorship,
  • Teaching about racism,
  • Helping new immigrants
  • learn English
  • Giving youth a job
  • Skill building
  • Learning about educational options
final comments
Final Comments
  • Employment can be part of a comprehensive solution to youth violence prevention by
    • Replacing negative socialization experiences with positive ones
    • Developing youth leaders through three-tiered mentoring or by active participation in solving community problems
    • Providing a highly structured environment
    • Identifying and addressing problems occurring outside of school and work
    • Building on youth’s inherent resilience to deal with trauma from social isolation, economic vulnerability and community-based violence