Tuesday, January 9, 2007

nij and employment programs

i'm just back from a national institute of justice conference in dee cee. the orienting question was what have we learned from longitudinal research? and, parenthetically, was it worth it?

my talk reviewed research on employment and crime. i learned much, but the highlight was a discussion with reynaldo decerega, a new youth development specialist at the department of labor. he described programs designed to place young people with records into high-growth industries. i've long lamented that job training in juvenile facilities seem to be preparing delinquent youth for the job market of the 1940s. it is sad to see kids working hard to learn, say, typesetting on ancient printing presses -- especially when almost everybody on the outside has been setting type on a pc since the 1980s.

mr. decerega offered a few examples of jobs in high-growth industries that would suit young offenders. in particular, he cited a program that moved a former drug dealer into a successful career in cell phone sales and services. hmm. such work takes advantage of an existing skill set and, presumably, cell phones will be around for a few more years. i'm just glad to see some thoughtful attention to the "what kind of training might lead to actual jobs" labor demand question, as well as the "instilling human capital into delinquent youth" labor supply question.

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