While growing up as a young man on Galveston Island, I couldn’t wait to become old enough, get an hourly job and begin the process to take on responsibility. Weeks before reaching my sixteenth birthday, my foray into the world of employment commenced as a bus boy at the Golden Griddle Restaurant on the Seawall. I was ecstatic to finally start earning a weekly paycheck while taking on the challenges of a young working man.
Unfortunately, somewhere over the past few decades, many young people in general no longer share the same level of exuberance that I once did about the entry-level employment process. I’ve spent several decades as a Workforce Trainer and Staffing Advisor here in the Gulf Coast Region. During that time, I’ve had a front row seat in observing the working habits of young people in our area. And from my vantage point, things are very disappointing. Not only are many young people not demonstrating the proper traits that will manifest and reach leadership caliber, I’ve also learned that many of them who work these low-level jobs are becoming discouraged and even start meandering toward wayward paths of destruction, including crime.
It would be ludicrous of me to imply that low-level jobs are the reason why many of these young men go on to carryout dangerous crimes in society, but a growing connection does exist. As an experienced Workforce professional, I have tried fervently to get educators, law enforcement officials and business leaders to take notice of the foreboding correlation. I’ve also proposed more job-readiness programs in schools and have encouraged others in the Workforce education realms to help me with the task of building bridges of sustainable employment options that link to those students who have no interest of attending college or vocational studies.
As a former manager with Fortune 500 organization, I use to make it common practice to establish work-study relationships with area schools to help students land entry level, but-interesting job assignments in my company. I would also reinforce those efforts with steadfast and compassionate job coaching. Flipping burgers or rounding up shopping carts is not what most young men consider to be interesting tasks. And placing a young man who has poor work skills and low morale with that of a rude, emotionally-devoid supervisor in a bad working environment is problematic.
Like most of you, I do find it somewhat preposterous to think that we must now become burdened with the responsibility of guiding these young men through the basic stages of life. But we actually have no other choice. This is what we can expect when three out of every four young men in urban communities don’t grow up with the influence of a working father.
Consider this: Three quarters of the male population in the Houston area between the ages 10-28 are now young men of color. I surmise, upwards of 40 percent of them will fail to find success in the labor force before reaching the critical milestone of 23. How else are they going to learn the values of hard work, character and climbing the ladder if some of us don’t step up to the plate and get it done?
Psychoanalysts believe that some of us are predestined to be bad apples no matter what happens to them in life. But the prospect of achieving sustainable employment and a solid life structure are essential cornerstones of personal development. I believe we are now at a crossroads as a society to help as many of these young men succeed in the workforce before it’s too late.