The JAG Advantage Brings Trauma-Informed Care to Youth Employment

Posted March 10, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Young people from Kentucky working with Jobs for America's Graduates

Photo provided by JAG Kentucky

For 40 years, Jobs for America’s Grad­u­ates (JAG) has worked across the nation to help young peo­ple build pro­fes­sion­al skills, earn cre­den­tials, gain employ­ment and enter post­sec­ondary edu­ca­tion. Through class­room learn­ing, coach­ing, lead­er­ship devel­op­ment, job-place­ment and oth­er ser­vices, youth and young adult stu­dents are set on path­ways to aca­d­e­m­ic and eco­nom­ic success.

What Is the JAG Advantage?

The JAG Advan­tage is an approach cre­at­ed by the orga­ni­za­tion to pro­vide stu­dent-cen­tered ser­vices that help young peo­ple achieve their fullest poten­tial, gain­ing an advan­tage in today’s emerg­ing work­force. The frame­work con­sists of three components:

  • project-based learn­ing, in which stu­dents build com­mu­ni­ca­tion, col­lab­o­ra­tion and crit­i­cal-think­ing skills through long-term projects that often include local employers;
  • trau­ma-informed care, which empha­sizes prac­tices that help JAG instruc­tors address stu­dents’ stress and trau­ma and remove bar­ri­ers they face; and
  • employ­er engage­ment, in which employ­ers pro­vide stu­dents with oppor­tu­ni­ties to learn and grow by pro­vid­ing them with real-life lean­ing expe­ri­ences and oppor­tu­ni­ties to explore career opportunities.

Start­ed in 2018, JAG plans to ful­ly incor­po­rate the new approach into its ser­vice deliv­ery by July 2020 — after it has trained all its 1,400 spe­cial­ists who work with youth and young adults.

Address­ing trau­ma to improve work­force training

A major rea­son JAG under­took efforts to improve its pro­grams was a grow­ing recog­ni­tion of how trau­ma affects how young peo­ple learn, engage in the pro­gram and suc­ceed in the workforce.

To cre­ate its new approach, the orga­ni­za­tion drew on its decades of expe­ri­ence work­ing with young peo­ple and lessons from its par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Casey Foundation’s Learn and Earn to Achieve Poten­tial (LEAP)™ ini­tia­tive, which works with those nav­i­gat­ing some of life’s most chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances, includ­ing home­less­ness or involve­ment in the child wel­fare or jus­tice systems.

We encour­aged our LEAP part­ners to adopt or deep­en their trau­ma-informed prac­tices for oppor­tu­ni­ty youth,” says Patrice Cromwell, Casey’s direc­tor of youth eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty. We’re pleased to see that JAG is ask­ing all its affil­i­ates nation­wide — not just its LEAP sites — to use these prac­tices going forward.”

One such part­ner is Jobs for Arizona’s Grad­u­ates, which has deep­ened its focus on trau­ma-informed care in recent years as part of its LEAP work. For instance, if a stu­dent is often absent from school, an edu­ca­tion spe­cial­ist will talk to the young per­son to learn more about his or her sit­u­a­tion. Some­times, spe­cial­ists find that stu­dents are fac­ing cir­cum­stances that inter­fere with their school­ing that need to be addressed — such as tak­ing on jobs to sup­port their fam­i­lies or car­ing for a sick loved one.

Trau­ma-informed prin­ci­ples help to equip our coor­di­na­tors to advo­cate for our stu­dents,” says Dian­na Har­ri­er, direc­tor of oper­a­tions with Jobs for Arizona’s Grad­u­ates. We try to help under­stand what’s behind young people’s behav­ior before tak­ing action, espe­cial­ly dis­ci­pli­nary solutions.”

Engag­ing with employers

The orga­ni­za­tion also attempts to com­mu­ni­cate effec­tive­ly with its employ­er part­ners about the needs of its stu­dents. For instance, it has sug­gest­ed that local employ­ers with long hir­ing process­es speed them up, as many young peo­ple can’t wait weeks or months with­out income and will like­ly take oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties that come up faster.

The future of JAG

JAG also plans to dou­ble the num­ber of stu­dents it serves to 150,000 in 2,500 com­mu­ni­ties over the next four years, great­ly increas­ing the num­ber of young peo­ple who will ben­e­fit from the new approach.

The JAG Advan­tage has offered a frame­work to bet­ter engage employ­ers, stu­dents and our staff,” Har­ri­er says. We think it’s a ter­rif­ic approach that high­lights the best of what we have to offer — and oth­er local and nation­al work­force orga­ni­za­tions should take notice.”

Learn more about LEAP

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