The Boston Jobs Project
The Jobs Project has evolved from Bostons success over the last three years in controlling youth violence and crime. No single program can claim credit for the dramatic decline in youth homicides and violence that Boston celebrates today. Instead, the partnerships and strategies developed by law enforcement, juvenile justice authorities, community leaders, streetworkers, clergy and the youth themselves are the reason for the dramatic success.
In Operation Cease Fire, police officers, prosecutors, and probation officers collaborate to target chronic and violent offenders for tough enforcement. They also join with streetworkers, educators, clergy and residents to identify many young people who are searching for ways to turn their lives around. These young people have said, if you are serious about breaking our ties to gangs and drugs, help us get jobs.
Thus the young people themselves have pointed to the next step in Bostons strategy: building a structure for youth to move beyond criminal and negative behaviors into jobs and stability. It is no easy task - these young people are alienated from community, school, church and family. They face an environment lacking in adult role models, a labor market where living wage jobs are out of their reach. and a peer culture that dismisses educational achievement.
The goal of the Jobs Project is to build a bridge to the citys surging economy for these youth who enjoy the fewest advantages and bear the greatest problems. The Jobs Project is built on the concept that a job connects a young person not only to the mainstream economy, but also provides access to education and skill building that will allow him/her to move toward a career goal and self-sustaining income. The ultimate outcome will be declining rates of youth violence and truancy, unemployment and poverty in our communities.
Key components of the project include:
- Outreach and Recruitment: The Jobs Project targets youth who are most often missed in traditional job programs, and for whom successful involvement is vital to continued crime reduction: youth who have been court involved, but who are ready to make a change in their lives. Law enforcement agencies, in particular, have proven their ability to effectively identify youth. The shared street intelligence used successfully to target prosecutions now will be used to identify youth who are ready to turn their lives around. Streetworkers, clergy, and youth workers will also refer youth to the Jobs Project.
- Job Placement at Work-based Learning: Youth ready for job placement enroll in the Boston Private Industry Councils intensive three-week job readiness training that addresses work-related issues, including office culture, reliability, job expectations and interviewing and job retention skills.
- The PIC: with support from the Mayor, has recruited a network of employers who are hiring youth who complete the job readiness program. Career Specialists monitor the youth through their job readiness program, assist them in securing employment, and stay connected with the youth and their supervisors to assist in resolving work-related issues. In addition, PIC staff work with alternative education providers to connect work-based learning with school-based learning.
- Vouching: The original source of the referral -- police or probation officer, DYS caseworker, Streetworker, or minister - is informed of the youths progress, and, along with the Career Specialist, "vouches" for the youth with his/her employer. Vouching means that the referral source offers him/herself to the employer as a resource for the youth. Employers have told us that it is the willingness of the PIC and the referral sources to stand behind the youth that gives them the confidence to make the hire. Vouching is nothing new - parents, relatives and friends often vouch for youth just starting out in the labor market. The link is created for high risk youth who are otherwise isolated from the informal network of referrals through which many people find their way in the labor market.
- Case Management: Case Managers assist youth in setting and reaching goals around work, education and personal achievement. They assist youth in overcoming the range of obstacles they face by accessing services such as alternative education, substance abuse services, housing, child care, transportation, family support, and mental health counseling.
- Alternative Education: Many, if not most, of the youth appropriate for the Jobs Project have either dropped out of school or are chronically truant. It is essential for these youth to continue their education as they participate in the job readiness and placement program at the PIC. From demographic studies, it is known that without a high school credential at a minimum, it is virtually impossible to break out of the low wage, low skilled labor market. Experience shows that an out-of- school youth looking for a job is more likely to succeed if he/she re-engages in education at the same time as participating in the PIC program.
Boston has a network of more than a dozen community-based alternative education programs offering education leading to a GED or a high school diploma. The network currently serves a total of one thousand students and is subscribed to capacity. The Jobs Project, will access resources to expand the alternative education network.
The Boston Jobs project is led by the Mayor, Police Commissioner, US Attorney, Suffolk County District Attorney and the Attorney General.
Other key players in the Jobs Project include the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC), the business community, Boston Community Centers, the Mayors Office of Jobs & Community Services, the Boston Housing Authority, the Department of Youth Services, the Commissioner of Probation, community-based organizations and ministries, including the Ten Point Coalition, Streetworkers, the Regional Department of Labor, and the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at Harvards Kennedy School of Government.