Young People Help to Reshape Workforce Development in Baltimore

Posted January 3, 2018, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Blog youngpeoplehelptoreshape 2018

Photo credit: Marshall Clarke for the Casey Foundation

Young peo­ple in Bal­ti­more desire reward­ing careers that cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties for their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties. Yet, clear bar­ri­ers — includ­ing a lack of infor­ma­tion about viable prospects and sup­port resources — stand in their path, accord­ing to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Reshap­ing Work­force Devel­op­ment in Bal­ti­more relays the authen­tic expe­ri­ences of young peo­ple in Casey’s home­town, where entrenched inequities have left thou­sands of local youth dis­con­nect­ed from edu­ca­tion and employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties (20% of youth are not work­ing or in school).

Learn more about YouthWorks

To cap­ture these voic­es, the Casey Foundation’s Bal­ti­more Civic Site hired sev­en com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers as con­sul­tants. This team cus­tomized engage­ment strate­gies for dif­fer­ent areas of the city and host­ed focus groups in trust­ed spaces to hear what young peo­ple had to say about their career goals and challenges.

Dur­ing these con­ver­sa­tions, young peo­ple in Bal­ti­more described:

  • want­i­ng to work for a vari­ety of rea­sons, such as sav­ing for col­lege, pay­ing bills or gain­ing pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ence. For some, finan­cial respon­si­bil­i­ty begins at a young age;
  • an inter­est in an array of career fields — every­thing from cos­me­tol­ogy to mor­tu­ary sci­ence and cyber security;
  • under­stand­ing the long-term ben­e­fits of edu­ca­tion, but being lim­it­ed by the imme­di­ate need to make money;
  • crav­ing entre­pre­neur­ship and resources to build busi­ness­es that will ben­e­fit their com­mu­ni­ties and are free from discrimination.

At the same time, par­tic­i­pants report­ed fac­ing sub­stan­tial set­backs that pre­vent­ed them from gain­ing a foothold in their cho­sen career field. They iden­ti­fied bar­ri­ers to work that include:

  • a short­age of infor­ma­tion about jobs and job resources;
  • unre­li­able phone and inter­net services;
  • dis­crim­i­na­tion due to crim­i­nal records; 
  • a lack of trans­porta­tion; and
  • liv­ing and grow­ing up in an unsta­ble environment.

Focus group feed­back also helped inform the report’s rec­om­men­da­tions, with young peo­ple in Bal­ti­more advo­cat­ing for:

  • wrap­around ser­vices to mit­i­gate par­tic­i­pa­tion bar­ri­ers that young peo­ple face;
  • enhanc­ing the vis­i­bil­i­ty of job oppor­tu­ni­ties — includ­ing train­ing and place­ment resources — through social media, street signs and library materials;
  • greater invest­ment in and uti­liza­tion of under-resourced com­mu­ni­ty cen­ters that are already serv­ing young people;
  • arm­ing men­tors who are already work­ing in com­mu­ni­ties with infor­ma­tion and resources;
  • sup­port­ing entre­pre­neur­ship with an explic­it focus on black, low-income youth and young adults;
  • cre­at­ing and iden­ti­fy­ing work oppor­tu­ni­ties for those with felony con­vic­tions and invest­ing in advo­ca­cy efforts to change expunge­ment poli­cies and hir­ing prac­tices; and
  • engag­ing employ­ers to improve per­cep­tions of youth workers.

The Casey Foun­da­tion, local pol­i­cy­mak­ers and sev­er­al phil­an­thropic and busi­ness part­ners have already begun putting this infor­ma­tion to use. The con­sul­tant team’s find­ings are now inform­ing work­force devel­op­ment and engage­ment strate­gies for city­wide ini­tia­tives, includ­ing a new­ly cre­at­ed youth fund and also Youth­Works, a sum­mer employ­ment pro­gram for young people.

Read Reshap­ing Work­force Devel­op­ment in Baltimore

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