The Root Cause Blog
03 Sep

A Working City: Improving Youth Summer Job Experiences through Trainings for Supervisors

Written by Alex Motter and Molly O’Donnell, Graduate Student Residents, Research and Assessments

Think back to your first job. Maybe it was babysitting, flipping burgers, or working at a summer camp. Think of what you learned from that experience and how you learned it. Did you have a good supervisor along the way? Did this person provide you with guidance?

Youth employment is an important component of youth development because it requires youth to hone workforce and life skills and often puts them in contact with caring adults. Youth employment is linked with positive academic and employment outcomes over time. For these positive results to occur, it is critical that youth have high-quality, meaningful employment opportunities that provide both a paycheck and opportunities for growth and learning, are trauma informed, and connect youth to supportive services.

Each summer, thousands of youth across the city of Boston are placed in summer jobs through a number of intermediary organizations including Root Cause Peer Performance Exchange member ABCD and Youth Violence Prevention Funders Learning Collaborative (YVPFC) employment partners Boston Youth Fund, Boston Private Industry Council, and others. Many of these youth work at community organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, Germantown Neighborhood Center, and Future Chefs (also Exchange members). These organizations aim to provide meaningful work experiences that can help young people develop the skills needed for their future success.

Last spring, Root Cause partnered with the YVPFC and Exchange members to find out the most pressing needs of youth employment organizations and their employer partners in the hopes of improving summer job experiences for youth in Boston. Overwhelmingly, they identified the need for training on informal mentoring and trauma informed services.

We then partnered with the State Street Foundation and Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) to help employment partners train their job site supervisors by creating the 2014 Informal Mentoring and Trauma Awareness Training Series. Beth Fraster of Mass Mentoring Partnership and Victor Jose Santana from BPHC’s Defending Childhood Initiative trained approximately 270 youth workers, jobsite supervisors, and program managers who work with youth throughout the city.

Participants gained tangible new skills that enabled them to work more effectively with youth employees. These skills included key ways to identify signs of trauma, tips for setting boundaries with youth, and exercises to help participants improve the way they communicate with youth employees. After the trainings, 95.7% of participants said they learned new information about how to identify trauma in young people. One participant shared: “The idea [that] these youth would HAVE trauma was eye-opening. That awareness made it possible [for me] to view their behavior from a different perspective.”

Imagine the power and impact if all youth job site supervisors across the city were able to identify the needs of youth and communicate effectively with youth employees. While many supervisors were trained this summer, we were not yet able to reach all of the summer jobs supervisors city-wide.

Participants in these trainings recognized the need for further support and made a call for additional training. Root Cause hopes to respond to this call with future trainings and continued growth to provide meaningful employment to youth citywide.