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Working in Adolescence

Youth Employment For Out-of-school And Disadvantaged Youth

In light of the importance of youth employment for disadvantaged youths, it is unfortunate that they face what researchers have called a "web of mutually reinforcing circumstances and behaviors" that makes a successful attachment to the labor market extremely difficult. Such circumstances include the deterioration of the labor market in urban communities, overwhelming personal and family issues that would distract even the most dedicated student and worker, and a mismatch between employer demands and the skills of entry-level workers. Indeed, lack of skills and lack of preparation for the workforce have been cited as among the most important reasons for the failure of youths to obtain long-term employment.

Lack of preparation for the transition from school to work is problematic for many minority youths. In general, high school students are ill-prepared for the world of work, a problem that is exacerbated by high school guidance counselors' exclusive focus on postsecondary education. An Educational Testing Service survey published in 1981 found that almost half of all students never talked to a guidance counselor about possible future occupations. These non-college-bound youths received little or no support or guidance in making a successful transition to the work force, often leading to a period of "floundering" as these young adults entered the labor market. As Gary Orfield and Faith Paul noted, "students not bound for college need the most help, receive the least assistance, are equipped with the most limited information, and experience the greatest risks in the job market" (Mendel 1995). Minority youths comprise one of several groups for whom this chaotic entry into the labor market is particularly harmful. According to Richard Kazis, the employment picture for black and Hispanic young Americans who do not make it to college is so bleak that it constitutes a serious school-to-work crisis.

Access to and identification with adults who have developed labor force attachments are also critical to an adolescent's successful entry into employment. Yet Edwin Farrell found in 1990 that at-risk minority youths have limited involvement with gainfully employed adult role models. Their understanding of the process of getting and maintaining employment was often limited, unrealistic, and inaccurate. Taken together, these data paint a picture of disadvantaged youths who are more likely to fail in school and less likely to build a foundation upon which to create an adult life in which they can support themselves and their families.

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 8Working in Adolescence - Developmental Roots Of Industry, Identity, And Employment, Advantages And Disadvantages Of Adolescent Employment, Youth Employment For Out-of-school And Disadvantaged Youth