Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day - Creating Jobs


Do you think of Mentoring as a A Jobs Creation Strategy?

What if we could put thousand of unemployed people in long-term jobs while also helping more youth living in high poverty prepare for future jobs and careers?

In numerous articles being written this Labor Day weekend the unemployment rate is stated as being between 9% and 16% reflecting people out of work, no longer looking, or under employed. See this column by Neil Steinberg in the Chicago SunTimes.

Many talk of rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure as a jobs creation strategy for putting people back to work. However, that does not address the large number of people who are in the birth to work pipeline who are not being adequately prepared for 21st century jobs and careers.

What if we had a jobs program that could create jobs for currently unemployed people and do more to help youth from inner city neighborhoods move successfully from high school to college and to jobs?

I’ve been aggregating information about poverty, poorly performing schools, social justice and workforce development for many years. This section (discussion forum) contains a variety of articles worth reading. As does this section (research library).

One article I found today is titled Overcoming Intergenerational Poverty. The writer recounts her own struggle to get through college and does research to show the barriers others from areas with high concentrations of poverty face.

In one of the conclusions she says “"Mentoring and Social Capital
A strong link between mentor support and academic success emerged in my study of students from generational poverty. I found that if students had mentors early in life and in college, they were more likely to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Mentors facilitated their understanding of social capital possibilities, expanded their networks of support, and let them know about important resources. In addition, mentors helped generate trust, and once participants felt safe and trusted, they were able to share their poverty related experiences with others. As a result, they received more assistance. Additionally, through their mentors, respondents learned new communication styles and behaviors that enabled them to communicate more effectively in the college environment. Mentors, and in most cases, the mentors’ connections, were pivotal when linking participants to information and contacts. This facilitated their success in achieving literacy and completing higher education. For example, mentors helped respondents understand the intricacies of filling out financial aid forms and taught them how to improve their study habits. In some cases, these resources reduced the stress of poverty and allowed the respondents to focus on their studies for the first time."”

Others are focusing on mentoring as a form of expanding social capital and my own view of a volunteer based tutor/mentor program shows youth surrounded by volunteers who come from diverse workplace backgrounds.

In a small tutor/mentor program with 50-70 pairs of youth and volunteers there could be five to 10 jobs. This infrastructure graphic shows what needs to be in place. The talent chart on page 5 of this Tutor/Mentor Institute PDF does the same. Most tutor/mentor programs don’t have this range of talent and they struggle. Our survey of tutor/mentor programs in Chicago shows many neighborhoods with few or no organized programs.

Since there are over 200,000 youth living in high poverty in Chicago, how many tutor/mentor programs might be needed to reach 50% of these? 500 programs with 75 youth each would cover the city and suburbs and still only reach about 38,000 kids.

How many jobs might be created if an effort were made to build a comprehensive network of tutor/mentor programs operating in all poverty areas of the city and suburbs. How many people might this put to work? How many internships might be created for youth in these programs? How might this contribute to the current economy in high poverty neighborhoods while also building the future workforce and lowering the costs of poverty at the same time?

I’m trying to build a team of people that will help me think through these topics and will help generate the resources and public will needed to make more and better non-school tutor/mentor programs available.

Maybe if we looked at this as a jobs and infrastructure program the government or some high profile foundations would take another look at this? What do you think?

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