By: Natalie Diratsouian
- Carson Hicks, Deputy Executive Director, New York City Center for Economic Opportunity
- M’Shell Patterson, Assistant Director and Director of Young Adult Internship Program, Assistant Director, Workforce Education Center, LaGuardia Community College
- Kim Robinson, Program Director at Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow
Moderator: Greg Hambric, Regional Recruiter at Modell’s Sporting Goods
“Creating Supportive Work Experiences for Disconnected Youth” assessed the ways in which the panelists’ organizations’ representatives assist in providing disconnected youth with opportunities and training that may otherwise be either unavailable or difficult to obtain. The panelists demonstrated that disconnected youths have the potential to be high performers when given the right tools through education, partnership and a proactive approach.
The services outlined by the panelists range from initial resume-building and skill obtainment, to interview preparation, and on-the-job training. Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow (OBT), for instance, provides a service, “Reengagement Tuesdays,” during which the youth who recently obtained a job, works with professionals from OBT for approximately five weeks prior to starting the job. During this five-week period, OBT assesses and identifies the youth’s needs and goals, including: team building, training, childcare, and housing. Additionally, “Reengagement Tuesdays” provide a retention and follow-up service by allowing for some time in which the youths talk to each other and discuss difficult situations that they may encounter in the workplace in order to receive feedback and advice from their peers.
Some successes that the groups have maintained include securing corporate partnerships and identifying the youths’ interests in order to keep them engaged. Despite these great successes, the organizations still face a myriad of challenges including illiteracy or deficiency of language skills and extreme family circumstances. The goal, as stated by Carson Hicks, Deputy Executive Director for the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity, is to cultivate a strong balance of hard and soft skills, as well as implementing an educational component. Moreover, this training and skill building is continuously reinforced through reflection and follow-up.
Through the understanding and collaborative approach taken by these organizations, the future for disconnected youths who have the motivation to become successful in their careers but may lack the proper resources looks significantly brighter.