What do Young People Need to Achieve Economic Success?
At the same time researchers have been investigating the impacts of PYD, they have also been examining what youth need for economic success. Many efforts now focus on preparing youth for work by ensuring that they have solid, transferable soft skills. In some cases, soft skills have been shown to have a greater impact on an individual’s employment, earnings, and overall well-being than job-specific technical skills. According to Child Trends, soft skills include “competencies, behaviors, attitudes, and personal qualities that enable people to effectively navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals.” The top six soft skills linked to positive employment and entrepreneurship outcomes for youth are:
|Social skills||Social skills|
|Communication skills||Communication skills|
|Problem solving/critical thinking||Problem solving/critical thinking|
|Positive self-concept||Positive self-concept|
How is PYD Linked with Economic Success?
If we unpack the benefits of PYD and the soft skills needed for future youth success in outside and self-employment, we see the overlap. We find common themes like self-esteem/self-concept; agency; assets; ability to navigate environment/self-determination; and self-efficacy/self-control. So how can we use PYD approaches to better prepare youth for work? Here are recommendations based on some of the main features of PYD:
- Skill building through training, team-based projects, or service learning – This feature has a clear and obvious link to preparing youth for the world of work. Most important is the opportunity for hands-on, experiential learning. Instead of dry classroom lectures, a PYD approach ensures that youth are able to experience teamwork, problem solving, the need for positive communication, and critical thinking through activities that require goal-setting and achievement. If one wished to make a more direct link to the world of work, scenarios could easily concentrate on science, technology, and math-focused activities or entrepreneurial-based assignments. Internships and apprenticeships also fit here for both soft and technical skill building.
- Links to healthy role models and mentors – Another PYD feature that easily connects to preparing youth for economic success has to do with nurturing relationships with positive mentors and building social networks. In a report by the National Mentoring Partnership, they state, “mentors can enhance the employability of youth in two key ways: providing guidance to address professional and personal challenges and enhancing career readiness skills.” Recent studies have found significant effects of mentoring on youth career readiness and employment outcomes. Many studies in low- and middle-income countries have also shown the importance of social networks to youth employment and entrepreneurship.
- A safe environment that offers a sense of belonging and membership – While this PYD feature may seem a bigger jump to make in fostering youth employment, think again. Many domestic and international companies now have specific strategies for building their talent pipeline that include internally focused programs to better onboard young entry-level workers. Companies design these programs to help young people feel comfortable in their new environment, learn the company culture, and better represent the company’s values. Other businesses are working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to source talented young workers, sometimes considered at-risk, to help meet gaps in labor supply. These NGOs often train youth in important soft skills before placing them in jobs, where they then receive ongoing mentoring and support to ensure successful .
- A setting with clear norms and expectations – Where else is there a greater need for clear norms and expectations than in the workplace? For many years, apprenticeships have been the opportunity for youth to practice being on time, properly dressed, and ready to work without the ultimate consequence of losing the job if they mess up. They are also able to develop basic technical skills required to meet the needs of the company. A recent article on apprenticeships for youth suggests that, “apprenticeships teach career skills, but at the same time play a positive role in young people’s development. The adults involved in apprenticeships serve as mentors, on-the-job supervisors, and teachers. These adults provide guidance and demand professionalism, but still allow young people to learn from making mistakes.”
- Opportunities for youth decision-making and leadership – When youth learn leadership skills in PYD programs it sets them up to become leaders in the workplace or to become motivated for entrepreneurship. When hiring young talent, innovative companies are looking for those who will “challenge the status quo.” They want fresh ideas from people who are willing to voice their opinions and follow through on achieving their goals. In addition, to become a successful business owner, leadership skills are a must. While being self-motivated is important, youth must also be prepared to take positive risks, which means having the ability to weigh the pros and cons and decide on the best course of action.
It is clear that in many ways PYD approaches and programs have a positive influence on development of the skills youth need most in the workplace. Youth employment programs should therefore take notice of how the elements of PYD can be used in the development of their own strategies.