Job Readiness for At-Risk Youth: A Mixed-Methods Study

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Dan Lannin

Mentor Department



Leandra Parris

Co-Mentor Department



Youth employment has been linked to a variety of short- and long-term benefits, including an increased income as well as personal and skill development (Carter, Ditchman, & Owens, 2011), which can counteract the many negative outcomes associated with living in poverty. However, in addition to lacking necessary resources, at-risk adolescents often lack confidence in their ability to obtain and keep employment. To address this, job readiness programs aim to teach employment skills in order to increase individuals' likelihood of obtaining and maintaining employment in the future (Reichert & Ridge, 2015). The present mixed-methods study aims to fill in the current gap in research pertaining to the effects of job readiness programs for at-risk youth, examining students' self-efficacy, outcome expectations, and qualitative data from focus groups. In Champaign county, youth aged 15-24 were reached through community partners in the Champaign Area Relationship Education for Youth (CARE4U) program and completed surveys that were administered after parent permission and child assent were obtained; 101 students participated in a job-readiness program, and completed pretest (August, 2016) and posttest (April, 2017) surveys assessing job readiness (e.g., confidence in their skills related to obtaining a job). A total of 133 participants attended focus groups that targeted the Job Readiness component of the CARE4U program. During the post-Job Readiness focus group interviews, participants indicated that they felt better about participating in job interviews, providing an elevator speech, and behaving professionally while trying to get, and subsequently keep, a job of their choice. Quantitative results indicated that after completing the Job Readiness program students felt more confident in their ability to perform job-searching behaviors, and that their behaviors would result in getting a job, both ps = .03. Whereas 34% of students had a resume before the program began, 82% had a resume by the program's end, and while 3% of students reported current employment at the start of the program, 45% were employed by the end. Results indicate that the Job Readiness portion of the CARE4U program improved participants' self-efficacy and outcome expectations, especially in the areas of job-searching, interviewing, and maintaining employment. These findings suggest that future programming aimed to increase at-risk youth's ability to obtain and maintain employment should incorporate opportunities for participants to apply learned skills in real world settings.



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