Home Page ס Our Blog ס "Youth at Risk" ס Employment for Youth at Risk – a Challenge and a Solution

Employment for Youth at Risk – a Challenge and a Solution

May 20, 2015

Why would anyone in their right mind choose to place Youth at Risk – youth who have a history of failures, of difficulty with authority, of trouble – in jobs?

The idea seems very counter-intuitive. However, in Israel, a large number of Youth at Risk are employed, as a way of rehabilitation. Today in Israel, there are some 70 vocational schools, run by the Ministry of Economy, that teach students a profession, and arrange employment (for pay) for the students as part of their training.

The idea behind this initiative was explained to the “Youth at Risk” course during a professional visit to the HOSHEN Vocational High School and during lectures by representatives from the Ministries of Education and Economy. The main idea that was stressed is as follows: Employment for Youth at Risk is an experience of success.
A common occurrence with Youth at Risk is a feeling of failure. 

Many have dropped out of school after being told again and again that they were not good enough. This notion of failure stays with the children, who are convinced that if they have failed academically, they will fail in all of their other endeavors.

The vocational schools provide students with the opportunity to learn a profession, instead of focusing on academic subjects. In HOSHEN, for example, there are four tracks offered: Cosmetics, Sound, Photography and Cooking. The students are placed in very small classes, where they receive the attention they need from a large staff, including counselors, personal tutors, devoted teachers and therapists. The students study a new profession, and are able to excel in ways that regular academics did not allow them to for various social, emotional and cognitive reasons.
At HOSHEN, it was explained to us that this success starts a new cycle for the youth: in experiencing success in their studies, they are able to regain their self-esteem and sense of value. This self-esteem allows them to succeed further, and so on. Whereas previously, these students experienced an opposite negative cycle; through vocational training, the schools are able to reverse that negative process.

Furthermore, the schools work in conjunction with places of employment, who hire the students during school, as part of their training. The students are paid for their work, and appreciated in ways they have never experienced before. While joining the work force, the students’ self-esteem is raised once again, and they are earning money for their efforts. The students learn that they have value, and are able to rebuild their trust in society and gain respect for authority. It is sometimes difficult to find placement for all the students. Once this has been achieved though, the students face the challenge of everyday life and experience as adults what they will have to deal with in their lives in the future. Aside from a profession, they are gaining life skills which cannot be imagined in a classroom setting.

At HOSHEN, it was stressed that this is not an easy process. Many of the students devote all their energy to convincing the staff they are a lost cause. However, once the spark of confidence and trust is lit, the students slowly start to rehabilitate. There are rarely students who choose to drop out of the vocational high schools, and the vast majority finish with diplomas for their new profession. In fact, most go on to serve in the army, and many even decide afterwards to pursue an academic future, filling in the matriculation exams on their own.

We met with one student in the Sound studio at HOSHEN. When asked “What are your plans for the future?” his answer was immediate: “I will go into the army, continue to work in sound, and continue studying.”

It has been said that “idle hands are the devil’s playground”. In the case of Youth at Risk, employment serves as an antidote to the troubles they face. Employment and hard work may be a challenge, but in providing self-confidence and success to these youngsters, it is also a solution. 

by Amanda Keehn, Ofri Center Staff.