The Levitan Center At-Risk Youth Symposium

The Problem

States, cities and urban areas with large populations of out-of-school youth are in a bind. They face:

  • A population explosion of 18 to 24 year olds, with a disproportionate numbers from low income families;
  • A 15 year record of disinvestment in out-of-school youth;
  • Severe competition for low skill jobs from public assistance recipients subject to new federal work requirements; and
  • Employers that are demanding skilled workers in order to compete and keep their businesses profitable.
  • Increasing peer pressure to join suburban gangs.

    Unfortunately, the prevailing attitude among many policy makers is "nothing works" for at-risk youth. This negative and completely erroneous attitude coupled with a history of falling resources targeted to vulnerable youth has set the stage for a potential crisis that can only be averted if action is started now to address the workforce development needs of this group of young people. As a step to pave the way for coordinated, comprehensive actions to address the labor market needs of the vulnerable youth population local areas must:

  • Identify and quantify the scope of the challenge in their community;
  • Recognize that we do know "what works" with this target group;
  • Understand that there are existing resources that can be used to begin to address the issue; and
  • Start the process of building a community coalition that is able to focus on this issue and tap the resources needed to form an integrated service and development system for youth.

The Goal of the Symposium

The symposium is designed to bring together a group of local leaders from the key areas in the region that need to deal with this challenge and focus on four interrelated objectives:

1. Understanding the challenge: Local leaders need to understand the nature and scope of the challenge in order to understand the need to act now.

2. Learning that we do know what works: They need to learn that to be successful there are a set of guiding principles should undergird all youth programming. Equally as important, local leaders need to be made aware of the fact that there are a number of program models that have proven to be successful with this target group.

3. Start to focus on what it will take to address the challenge: With information and understanding, the next logical step is to start the planning process. The symposium will provide the group with a trained facilitator to help start that process.

4. How existing resources and strategies "fit" with this issue: Welfare-to-Work, TANF, School-to-Work, One-Stops and other initiatives are all resources and strategies that can be part of a comprehensive approach to assist vulnerable youth.

Who Attends the Symposium?

A group of local leaders from each state, and each SDA in the region to include:

State Level:
WIA Liaison 
State Department of Education
State Juvenile Justice Agency 
State WIB Council 
State Higher Education Agency
State Social Services Agency

Local Level
Chief Elected Official's Office 
SDA Director
WIB Chair 
Local School Superintendent 
Local Social Services Agency 
Key CBO Leaders 
Police Chief/Parole and Probations 
Community College Administration 
State's Attorney office 
Faith Community 
Major Youth Service Providers

The chief elected official is asked to convene the local team.

How Is the Symposium Structured? A one-day meeting with the following agenda is a prototype:

Welcome and Focus for the Meeting: The Regional Administrator or other DOL staff kicks off the meeting and outlines the purpose and the agenda for the day.

Multi-Media presentation that outlines the issue and frames the actions that need to be considered. The Levitan Center presents a 30-minute Power-Point slide show that will identify the out-of-school, out-of-work youth problem, and highlight the principles and programs that communities can employ to deal with this problem.

Content Workshops,: Concurrent content workshops are held and each workshop is given twice. Each symposium member has the opportunity to attend two workshops. Workshop topics include:

    Developing Youth Councils Under WIA

    Successful Program and Management Principles

    Assembling the Resources

    Youth Strategic Planning

    Alternative Education Models

    Building a Community Collaborative

    Connections to Employers

The Levitan Center developed these content workshops and engages recognized experts to conduct the workshops. Each workshop is 60 minutes and allows for the attendees to interact with the experts.

Group Planning Session: Using a format designed by the Levitan Center, the local teams come together for a two hour session with a skilled facilatator to start assessing needs, and developing plans for a comprehensive system

  • . An important part of this session is for each team to develop their list of what their next steps should be and what it will take to start addressing the at-risk youth issue in their community.







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