Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Teen Employment Crisis and Violence Connection

A few weeks ago, in east Utica, approximately 75 youth congregated at a local intersection. They were armed with clubs, knives, and assorted other weapons. Thankfully for all involved, police arrived before a battle commenced. The youth ranged in age, with some below 16. A few of those who were older were taken into custody by the police.

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated occurrence. Local law enforcement authorities, as well as those around the country, have noted a substantial up-tick in the numbers of youth involved in street gangs in the last few years. Is there a connection with the lack of jobs available for youth in the local community as well as elsewhere in the country?

The Great Recession that began in 2007 brought the overall unemployment rate to 10 percent. In fact, according to a report in the on-line journal Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity teen employment has declined more than 25 percent since 2006. “For teens from low income families, summer employment provides not only income, but also work experience that can distinguish teens within a competitive urban labor market and signal competence and professionalism to potential full-time employers.”

Entry level employment such as fast food, retail, landscaping, and grocery store work can provide skills that are critical to future employment. Youth learn to show up on time, listen to their boss, consider a customer and the fundamental principle of exchanging time for money. Futhermore, these early work experiences encourage school completion, create connections with other working teens, and help lower risky behaviors. RCIL’s Main Street program works to put at-risk youth on a path toward a job and/or further education. Linking high school students to occupational training with technical schools and/or community colleges has proven successful. Also noted in the Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, “Career Academies establish partnerships with local employers to provide work-based learning opportunities to improve student preparation for the workforce as well as college attendance. These programs have been shown to be effective for at-risk youth.”

We should advocate for substantial increases for government funding in support of these initiatives. It should be available to both young women and men who can certainly all benefit. When one looks at the huge recidivism rates for our prison system (over 40 percent), and the cost to society both financially and emotionally from crime, the cost effectiveness of such funding is clearly apparent.

- Dave L.


  1. I live in an area where there are a lot of youths who waste most of their day in gangs, taking drugs, booming music and drive wild, or just sit around being lazy. This is a character issue. They were never taught how to work because schools never taught them what real life was going to be like and never prepared them for it.

    I'm not going to give one more red cent to the government. They've screwed up already with these kids...why on earth should I continue to trust them with MY money? They didn't teach these kids any practical working skills, they didn't teach them how to communicate, they didn't teach them how to use their money to better benefit them and those around them. They didn't teach them how to work or think like an adult.

    If people want to start Career Academies (which I don't totally disagree with), then those people should volunteer to work there and earn the money themselves to get it started. I don't want to see anyone's money taxed from them and wasted, like they have been wasted in public schools.

    And I'd recommend, instead of starting "Career Academies" start, "Entrepreneurial Academies". These young people have been taught to always take orders: prepare for this test, do your homework, read this, turn in that paper, etc. They do that until they are 22 or 28! They are taught to be slaves, they need to be taught to think hard, think well, take initiative to be leaders, innovators, creators, manufacturers, builders.

    Put them out to work as apprentices under a good mentor. Don't teach them by putting together more group classes and more speakers to give useless advice. Don't play games with "career" themes. Put them out in the real world to get a taste for it. It will help them to get out of entry level employment jobs (which are disappearing). Teach them to start businesses of their own. Teach them to start businesses together, to put some skill they have to use.

    If you don't...this is their future: http://www.startingyourownbusinessovernight.com/entry-level-employment-01.html

  2. PS After many years of observation the only people with obvious disabilities that I have ever observed in Utica who were gainfully employed and doing something constructive, aside from the more seriously disabled people who are employed by Human Technologies Corp have been a few at RCIL, one at Social Security and one at Walgreens.

    As for feeling abandoned: I had one disabled acquaintance living alone in a downtown apartment building who died in his apartment and was not discovered until at least five days later. I won't name names out of respect to the truly good hearted owners of the property who were NOT at fault.

  3. I agree 100% that schools should teach marketable working skills and then if there is enough $ left over include some education to round them out such as history, literature, etc.

    As for my expensive Bucknell Liberal Arts education I would have been better off financially if I had learned something truly practical like plumbing or carpentry; or interning at Sotheby's.

    I recall, when I lived in Marin County, California meeting and speaking with a Chinese woman who told me her son was in college studying music or art but she had also insisted that he learn general contracting so he had something to fall back on. She was a wise woman.

    We need to bring back the old mentor and apprenticing systems which were successful for many centuries.

    There is a lot of money to be made in the education business. Just check the cost of books in college bookstores.

    What on earth Mayan numerical systems and other esoteric mumbo-jumboes, which were required at a local Univ. for a psychology degree, have to do with practical counseling I have no idea...but it sells high priced learning materials. Students would learn plenty about psychology by spending a summer working in a homeless shelter.

  4. The Domestic Violence Crisis Service recognises that the majority of people subjected to violence and abuse in personal relationships are women and children.
    new york psychologists