Generation Work™, launched by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in 2016, aims to connect more of America’s young adults with meaningful employment by changing the way that public and private systems prepare them for jobs. As part of the initiative, partners in five sites—Cleveland, Hartford, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and Seattle—have worked to align various education, employment, and support services to help young people develop the skills required to succeed in the working world, link them with employers, and increase their advancement and earning opportunities. By combining employer-facing strategies aligned to labor market needs with positive youth development (PYD) approaches—such as positive relationships, safety, a focus on young people, and youth agency—Generation Work aims to promote equitable employment opportunities for all young people.
Child Trends has served as a national partner since Generation Work began and focuses on integrating PYD approaches into local partnerships’ programming and studying how that integration has gone. PYD is an approach that encourages providers to focus on their clients’ unique goals, needs, and strengths. By adopting a PYD approach, programs commit to responding to young people’s current circumstances and tailoring programming to the appropriate developmental stage of each participant—often described as “meeting young people where they are.” Program staff can better meet individuals’ needs by developing positive relationships with young people; ensuring physically and emotionally safe environments; strengthening linkages between organizations, families, and communities; and improving youth’s developmentally appropriate skills (that is, both their soft skills and their academic and technical competencies).
A PYD approach requires nimble and creative thinking from staff and an organizational culture that supports both staff and young people, and organizations may struggle to identify concrete ways to implement PYD approaches consistently. The individualized approach of PYD requires more complexity than simply sending staff to a training but is more likely to engage young adults and achieve positive outcomes. Child Trends has developed research briefs, blogs, and tools for the Generation Work initiative. These products aim to help programs better understand PYD approaches, integrate PYD into a program setting, and learn from the strategies implemented by other programs.
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