August 2012 Update: Meaningful Employment Leads to Peace

Aug
13

This Update pulls together a few elements from previous editions around one of the summer's most important themes: youth jobs. Both youth and the latest academic research agree that offering meaningful employment is one of the most effective ways of reducing youth violence.

Meaningful Employment Leads to Peace

At YVSP's December 2011 Forum, young people voiced  that the lack of youth jobs is of top concern among the many issues they care about. One young woman lamented that "the city is constantly refusing to fund us and [the] lack of jobs often leads to greater rates of violence, so really it's just that we need more teen jobs in Boston."

 

As it turns out, this intuition may be insight into real-world truth: recent research in Boston supports the idea that more jobs means more peace.  The impact of employment is perhaps most apparent with youth who are "associated" with gangs or those "on the edge" of gang involvement. By providing young people with jobs, connecting them with role models, building their confidence, and developing their career skills and aspirations, jobs serve as an effective intervention that significantly reduces the flow of youth into gangs and serves as an alternative to high-risk activities. As we learned at the Forum, the majority of young people would enthusiastically take employment over gang  involvement if given a choice.

 

Since the experience of youth and academic research  converge The Blue line shows the baseline levels of violence over 12 years; the Red line shows the impact of an "upstream" approach, such as providing jobs for youth.in agreement, it's encouraging to note that there are a number of initiatives committed to funding summer jobs for youth. For example, the Summer Enrichment Series (a partnership between the Black Ministerial Alliance, the Boston Foundation, and Citizens Bank) recently announced that they have awarded grants to fund 30 summer jobs for youth between the ages of 14 and 24.

 

With a systems perspective, we recognize that violence is interrelated with employment, education, poverty, and so much more. One of the most distressing insights from the December 2011 Forum was that young people live with a pervasive sense of disconnect from essential supports/resources, leaving them feeling anxious and unprepared for life after high school.  Holistic initiatives such as creating and sustaining youth jobs can mean the difference between an individual on the edge of gang involvement sliding down the "slippery slope," and one transformed by the hope of a promising future.

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