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Career counseling programs are comprehensive developmental plans that aim at assisting individuals in making and implementing job-related decisions. A career guidance and counseling program empowers a person to explore their personality. Experts in career counseling enhance participants’ self-knowledge by highlighting their strengths and helping them overcome their weaknesses. The present program targets one of the most vulnerable demographic cohorts – disadvantaged youth.
Disadvantaged youth is defined as young people who grew up in poverty or other challenging social conditions that impacted their access to education and career pool negatively. Assisting individuals during their formative years can influence their entire life and prevent them from falling into an unhealthy lifestyle. This plan goes into detail on the rationale behind counseling disadvantaged youth and what comprehensive planning for this population group should entail. A theoretical framework, as well as practical steps concerning organization and implementation, are also discussed.
During their teenage years and early twenties, individuals undergo numerous changes: they may reassess their convictions, discover or abandon interests and hobbies, and rebuild their own self completely. This tendency has a biological explanation: today, scientists believe that from 18 through 25 years old, a person’ psyche is exceptionally malleable and susceptible to external influence (Chammah, 2018).
If an individual is not exposed to the world outside their environment riddled by poverty, struggle, and even crime, they might not even envision a brighter future for themselves. Chammah (2018) argues that teenagers and young adults are at the highest risk of repeating an offense if they misconduct. Both biological and social factors predispose them to become trapped in a system that does not let them grow, thrive, and prosper.
Working with troubled youth takes specific measures and a cautious approach. Ibarraran, Ripani, Taboada, Villa, and Garcia (2014) show that solely introducing disadvantaged young people to the world of professions is not enough. Growing up in poverty might have compromised their social and emotional developmental domains, which impedes them from successful employment. In their study of the Dominican school dropouts, Ibarraran et al. (2014) conclude that while social and emotional skills might not take priority over vocational skills, enhancing the former should precede job training.
Experts at the Multilateral Investment Fund (2014) concur: they are convinced that psychosocial interventions should be an indispensable part of career counseling programs. Many young people do not only struggle emotionally – they are deeply traumatized, and without a specialist’s timely interference, they might seek solace in delinquent behaviors.
Career Planning: Organization, Implementation, and Evaluation
The present career counseling program is realized in three steps. The total number of hours that participants spend in training is 125: 25 hours are devoted to basic life skills while the rest, 100 hours, is dedicated to technical/ vocational training. Such distribution of time in the program draws on the theoretical framework proposed by Ibarraran et al. (2014). Disadvantaged young individuals might become frustrated over having to learn new skills soon after enrollment. Moreover, the lack of understanding of why they are doing the things that they are told to do might decrease their motivation and engagement. For this reason, it is essential to make the first part of the program rather theoretical than practical to prepare the participants for the challenging tasks of the successive parts.
Finding participants is possible through education and welfare institutions. Professors and college career counselors often come into close contact with students, have an insight into their lives, and witness their struggles. Thus, they might be the right people to refer a student at risk of failure or unemployment to a counseling facility. However, as Holzer (2014) points out, many poor people never enter tertiary education, so only contacting colleges would dismiss a large part of the disadvantaged population. Hence, another meaningful way to pack courses is to contact social workers who are familiar with vulnerable families, youth that have been in juvenile detention, and school dropouts.
Basic life skills training should aim at improving participants’ professional self-esteem and enhancing their knowledge about the market. More often than not, disadvantaged young people’s relatives and other people in their environment cannot boast sufficient economic literacy. Hence, maturing individuals enter the world without knowing what opportunities there are out there, how to conduct oneself professionally, and how to handle money. The first section of the present program should at least provide support and offer them useful resources they can contact at any time to make well-informed educational, professional, and financial decisions.
First, a counselor should develop a therapeutic relationship with participants. If the number of individuals in the counseling group is not too large, it would be incredibly beneficial to hold individual sessions. On a group scale, a counselor might want to conduct career aptitude tests and personality tests. However, following through with these formalities is not what helps to build a meaningful bond with a young person.
An individual session is a perfect opportunity to gain a participant’s trust and getting to know him or her on a deeper level. During the sessions, a counselor should demonstrate his or her readiness to give a participant space for self-exploration without imposing his or her opinions. However, it is critical to be honest, and not retain from speaking about career choices in the fields in a steep decline. Each disadvantaged young individual deserves to know the truth about the job market, especially if he or she did not get much exposure to it through family and friends.
During the first section, a counselor can use a variety of media to provide participants with the most relevant information. A specialist should gain young people’s respect but, at the same time, demonstrate that he or she is not the only source of knowledge. Giving out printed materials and resources at the group or individual sessions might be a good idea. Some other strategies include sharing job search websites, attending job fairs together, and inviting people of different occupations for an interview. The goal-setting process should be primarily driven by participants themselves, whereas a counselor is only a mediator.
Parental involvement in the career counseling of underage youth is still up to debate in psychological circles. As Whiston and Cinamon (2015) point out, parents might have a positive insofar as a negative influence on their children’s career development. In the case of disadvantaged youth, it is expected that parents might have two vastly different attitudes. Some parents are disengaged: they neglect their children and do not care enough about their future. Other parents, however, see their children as a ticket to a better life and impose unrealistic expectations about their career perspectives. A counselor should work with parents open to collaboration and advise them to look beyond their children’s skills and knowledge. What young people need from the family is faith, support, and an emotionally safe environment.
As for vocational/ technological training, the jobs offered might include both non-academic or academic career paths. The program described by Ibazzaran et. (2014) entailed training courses in such professions as a baker, hairstylist, bartender, and auto mechanic, and administrative assistant. Job choice depends on a participant’s priority: some of them just want to make a living while others have more ambition and would like to climb up the career ladder.
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For instance, the profession of an administrative assistant is versatile and presents many opportunities for professional growth. The 100 hours of training should take place at appropriate facilities: restaurants, hotels, hair salons, and others. This part of the course should include both theoretical foundations of a profession and hands-on experience. A counselor and the mentors in the respective workplaces should communicate and make adjustments when necessary.
Evaluation of the present program should take three different forms. First, the effectiveness of the first section is assessed. According to the Multilateral Investment Fund (2014), a counselor can employ a variety of psychological tests to assess participants’ self-esteem, motivation, and engagement. Apart from formal test results, a live follow-up session would be revealing: in a personal conversation, an individual might share more information as opposed to a multiple-choice or a Likert scale test.
The second evaluation type is a performance test that should take place in the work setting and entail revising the knowledge about the chosen occupation and demonstrating practical skills. Lastly, a counselor might want to receive feedback directly from the employer. He or she can report on both hard and soft skills that a participant now possesses and conclude their overall readiness and adaptability to the work environment.
Chammah, M. (2018). To help young women in prison, try dignity. The New York Times. Web.
Holzer, H. J. (2014). Proposal 8: Improving employment outcomes for disadvantaged students. Web.
Ibarraran, P., Ripani, L., Taboada, B., Villa, J. M., & Garcia, B. (2014). Life skills, employability and training for disadvantaged youth: Evidence from a randomized evaluation design. IZA Journal of Labor & Development, 3(1), 10.
Multilateral Investment Fund. (2014). Guide for providing comprehensive career guidance services to disadvantaged youth. Web.
Whiston, S. C., & Cinamon, R. G. (2015). The work-family interface: Integrating research and career counseling practice. The Career Development Quarterly, 63(1), 44-56.