By Abigail Ellis, Reprinted from the National Mentoring Resource Center
The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption in the lives of young adults. In particular, opportunity youth—those aged 16–24 who are not in school or employed—have been disproportionately affected by the economic downturn resulting from this crisis. Without the required education or skills, this population is at risk of greater unemployment and disengagement in the years to come. As such, it is critical that workforce development programs provide mentoring and relationship-based support that can help these young people achieve their goals and contribute to our economy.
The Benefits of Mentorship for Opportunity Youth
Research suggests that mentorship plays a key role in helping opportunity youth gain access to resources, develop life skills, and explore career options. Mentors serve as guides on life’s journey; they share their experience, provide guidance, and motivate those they mentor. They also create opportunities for learning through activities such as job shadowing, internships, community service projects, academic tutoring assistance, etc., while serving as a sounding board to discuss potential paths forward. In addition to providing practical support and advice on career choices or educational pathways, mentors can also make a lasting difference through social support.⁴ Such relationships can increase self-esteem levels amongst opportunity youth which is essential for long term success.
Holistic Support for Workforce Development Programs
It is important for workforce development programs to adopt a holistic approach that provides an array of services tailored to each individual’s needs rather than focusing solely on job placement. These services should include vocational training, curriculum-based academic instruction (such as GED preparation), case management services (which includes mental health counseling if needed), workforce readiness training (such as building communication skills or conflict resolution strategies), etc. Such comprehensive approaches allow program participants to receive both technical and soft skill training while also receiving personal development services that may be needed in order to succeed once they enter into the workforce full time. Additionally, providing career counseling prior to placement encourages young adults to identify meaningful opportunities based on their interests rather than simply taking any job available out of necessity. This ensures they are better prepared with the tools necessary for success when entering into the world of work.
Mentorship and relationship-based support play an integral role in successful workforce development programs for opportunity youth. These types of supports can help these young adults build self-confidence while developing tangible skills that will prepare them for long-term success in their careers and beyond. By investing in mentorship programs alongside comprehensive workforce development initiatives that focus on both technical and soft skill training along with personal growth opportunities, we ensure that these young adults have all the tools necessary to become valuable contributors within our society going forward!
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