Youth career development is a subfield of workforce development. It serves disengaged youth—young people aged 14-24, who are not actively engaged in education, training, or the workforce. With the unemployment rate for adults without a high school diploma at 13.1 percent, high school credentials are becoming an increasingly crucial requirement in the emerging U.S. economy. However, the gap between employment opportunity and eligibility expands with every disengaged youth as 7,000 students drop out of high school every day. This problem is compounded by the fact that a traditional high school curriculum alone cannot provide the full set of skills required by employers in today's demanding job market. For youth to be successful, traditional education needs to be supplemented with further education and transferable work experience. The ultimate goal of youth career development programs is to provide the skills development, work experiences, and youth development activities necessary for disengaged youth to become productive adults.
Source: Root Cause
Experts recommend that providing meaningful work experience is the best approach to reducing the number of disengaged youth and ultimately helping young people transition successfully to adulthood. The three components of this approach, outlined below, should be incorporated into all youth career development programs. High-performing nonprofits provide all three of the components of the recommended approach, either in-house or through partnerships to help youth to re-engage in school and develop skills that are relevant and valuable to employers.
Applied Skills DevelopmentApplied skills development teaches participants relevant skills that will improve their eligibility for employment or post-secondary education. Effective programs combine basic academic skills, 21st-century skills, and transferrable job skills to prepare participants for future careers. Programs must also help youth to understand the connection between these three types of skills and how they transfer to future careers and productive adulthood.
Career ExposureCareer exposure improves youths' awareness of the career opportunities that lead to a family-sustaining living wage. Effective programs enable youth to learn about several careers and provide them with information about the skills and credentials required to enter and advance into the field of their choice. One key way programs expose youth to career options is through work-based experiences such as internships, service learning, or summer jobs.
Youth Development ServicesYouth Development Services such as health care, counseling, crisis response, mentoring, and housing should be provided to help at-risk youth address and overcome their individual challenges to success. Effective programs assess each youth's individual barriers to success and help youth address challenges by connecting them to appropriate services. It is also important for programs to work with youth to set goals for the duration of the program as well as for after program completion. High-performing programs also provide a bridge to help youth achieve their next level of credential or enter a career.
The ultimate goal of youth career development programs is that youth make a successful transition to adulthood and earn family sustaining income. However, it is challenging for organizations to track these types of long-term outcomes. Appropriate outcomes and measures of success will vary for each type of program, and it is important for interested donors to have a conversation with organizations regarding how they track the success of their program as it relates to participant outcomes.
The following are some examples of short-term outcomes organizations may track:
Social Impact Research (Root Cause) has not yet analyzed organizations that provide youth career development programs. Donors can evaluate youth career development programs independently using Social Impact Research's Guide to Giving.
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