Based on a literature review, this paper discusses the theoretical foundation and features of vocational/job training programs for at-risk youth, followed by an overview of evaluation findings on how these programs have benefited participants.
The theoretical foundation for the development of vocational job training for youth at risk for delinquent behaviors is traced to social control theory, which suggests that the discipline of work molds constructive behaviors; social learning theory, which argues that the role modeling of work-oriented adults is constructive for youth; and economic strain theory, which posits that strain resulting from economic pressures can increase the risk for delinquent behavior. The target population for youth vocation/job training programs are youth out of school, out of work, and in other high-risk situations. Employment and vocational programs for youth vary in intensity and cost. They include career curricula, which are typically incorporated into high school and summer programs for at-risk youth; summer work and subsidized employment (usually limited to several months); and long-term intensive residential programs. The latter programs provide vocational and life-skills training, general education, and job placement. A comprehensive approach includes preparation for employment, counseling and other support services, and job placement with ongoing support services. Federal legislation that supports such efforts is reviewed. The available evaluation evidence on the impact of employment and vocational skills training for at-risk youth is mixed. Although some positive outcomes have been documented, the magnitude of these effects have been small. This may be due to evaluation designs, which need to consider the relative values of program components and follow participants for longer periods. 24 references
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Best Practice/State-of-the-Art Review
Date Published: November 1, 2010