Intervention outcome preferences for youth who are out of work and out of school: a qualitative study .

Thematic Analysis Coding

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Young people’s perspectives on preferred intervention outcomes for Upcoming Youth and associated approaches were grouped into four themes. Specifically, participants expressed wanting to (1) increase their vocational readiness, (2) secure a job, and (3) receive supports for mental health and well-being as part of the Upcoming Youth intervention. Participants also described preferring, (4) high-contact, individualized services that are integrated within a system of care.

Vocational readiness

Young people emphasized that Upcoming Youth interventions should enhance their vocational readiness, particularly in ascertaining their academic and career interests, gaining information relevant to their academic/career interests, and learning relevant skills. Participants wanted such interventions to help them understand their academic and career interests and goals, in order to feel confident about their academic and career-related decisions. For example, one youth stated:

If we have that help with figuring out what the work or career goals are, that'll help with everything else. It'll kind of point you in the right direction of what skills you need for your schooling and for everyday life. (Participant 1)

Participants expressed that the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in various potential fields would help them to learn more about them and assess both their interest in the field as a whole and the fit of the career for them.

Having a program where you can go for a couple weeks in a placement at a certain company, and you can see if it's a good fit for you, and learn what they're all about, to really get that hands-on experience. (Participant 2)

Young people also reported needing more information on the various academic and career paths available to them. This includes learning the steps or requirements to pursue the academic programs or careers they are interested in, as well as learning about the job market relevant to their careers of interest. Some indicated that earlier support in these areas would be helpful, such as having access to mentors and guidance counsellors during high school to help prepare for the transition to the next stages of education or employment. The supports they wished for included access to information about school and career paths and how to navigate them, but also instrumental support, such as help preparing strong applications. For example, one youth noted:

I think just help with navigating what kind of programs are out there based upon my interests, help with applications of course. I felt that was something I kind of lacked when I was in high school. But to graduate, I felt there wasn’t a lot of help with how to apply, these application fees, what they're looking for. (Participant 1)

Another youth further built upon this notion:

Also, realistically, understand the qualifications necessary to pursue practically, then the steps that are needed to pursue the career they're interested in. So laying out a clear, flow charted step like, you need to do this, this and this to get this job. So folks can weigh, like, this is a career that I want or not. (Participant 3)

Participants expressed a desire to learn specific skills. These included life skills, such as filing taxes and managing finances, as well as soft skills, such as communication, public speaking, emotional intelligence, problem solving, and time management. They emphasized how important these skill sets would be for their educational and career trajectories. For example, one youth noted:

Time management... Even things like how to get a study routine going for how to compartmentalize—how to schedule your day... Your meals and your sleep and how to have a balanced life... (Participant 3)

The need to learn professional skills was also identified, such as leadership and networking skills. The critical importance of networking to a successful job search was emphasized by many participants; for example:

Because everyone has opportunities and they will seek you out if they need someone to fill a role or something. I’ve learned that 80% of jobs, that the next job you get is from someone else. So, 80% of the people—that’s what happens to them. So, definitely network, so if you can teach people how to network, teach them how important it is to network, and also make networking opportunities. (Participant 4)

Similarly, young people reported a preference for more training options for specific vocations. This included training on using popular software, coding, and social media competency, for example. They indicated that this training should be free and a certificate should be offered upon completion, in order to provide concrete evidence of their skill development, supporting the job search.

Like, you can get digital marketing certificates and other certificates to certify you in stuff like Facebook and social media and coding. So, I feel like having access to those micro courses, like, at a level when you’re out of school, would be great… (Participant 5)

Securing a job

Young people expressed wanting Upcoming Youth interventions to help them find a job in the short term. Some participants added that the job should be aligned with their career interests. Others noted the importance of securing a job with a positive work environment and good coworkers. Participants also expressed the importance of being directly connected with people who could enhance their probability of securing a job, such as potential employers, individuals who are in their fields of interest, and mentors.

I found that if they can connect me to somebody who is more experienced in the industry, I can ask more targeted questions on how to improve my resume or my experience. (Participant 6)

Again participants also reported the need for instrumental support around finding a job, such as help with writing their resumes, applying for scholarships, and preparing for interviews. However, perspectives on resume support were mixed, with some youth indicating that this was important and others noting that it was not an important area to target within Upcoming Youth programs.

I actually find that resumes—knowing how to write a resume—is actually extremely important, because head hunters, people who are trying to screen you for jobs, they look at resumes, they look at hundreds, thousands of resumes a day and you need to have a resume that actually sticks out for people to actually want to hire you. (Participant 4)

In addition, young people indicated the importance of gaining experience, not only to assess fit as outlined above, but also to increase the success of their job search. They shared their frustration about needing experience to find a job, but being unable to acquire that initial experience. They felt that programs for Upcoming Youth should help break this cycle, helping youth obtain the initial experience they need to get a job in their chosen field.

When you work, [you] need experience, and then getting experience in the field you [want] is so difficult. If you don't give me a chance to work in the field I want, I won't get experience. (Participant 7)

Support for mental health and well-being

Young people expressed needing support for mental health, substance use, and well-being through programs for Upcoming Youth. Services for mental health and substance use were considered particularly crucial, both in general and in relation to employment, given the interconnectedness between mental health and employment. For example, one youth reported:

I think job programs that sort of help youths to not only find a job and keep a job, but to manage their mental health in and around that job, are very important. (Participant 8)

Another youth also emphasized the importance of incorporating mental health and substance use support given the multiple needs a young person may have that interact with employment status:

I think it's the case that there has to be support [for mental health and substance use]. Because people who are facing chronic unemployment, you know, chronic homelessness, substance abuse, this, that, everything else, they have to be built in, in order for these people to be successful, because you're not treating the broken bone—you're just forcing them to walk anyway. (Participant 9)

Participants reported wanting better access to mental health clinicians as part of the intervention, and they wanted this support to be highly accessible, considering that these youth often have low income status and other access concerns. For example:

You have access to speak with a counsellor or even like a psychologist, because a lot of that is very inaccessible for folks who are trying to access the job market – because a lot of times, we’re low income. (Participant 5)

Participants also indicated that social connection was important for their mental health, and they therefore seek to connect with others through Upcoming Youth programs. Some indicated that participating in programming within smaller group settings would provide the opportunities to build relationship and friendships with other youth with similar challenges and would provide enriching opportunities.

When you are sharing your lived experiences with others, you are giving yourself the opportunity to connect with others and get involved with activities or services which you would probably not do in your day-to-day life. (Participant 10)

In relation to well-being, young people additionally expressed the importance of receiving financial support during their job search, so that their basic needs would be provided for while they look for a job. Some indicated that this could be provided through Upcoming Youth programs, while others advocated for systematic, governmental-level changes, such as implementing universal basic income.

I think focusing more on just kind of stabilizing someone first, you know…, providing them with a basic level of income to be able to better manage themselves, be able to pay their bills, that kind of thing, and then moving into more things like resume development or, like, what they're looking in school programs or all that kind of stuff. I think all of this stuff is kind of secondary to that base level of figuring out the absolute basic needs. (Participant 9)

Further, participants expressed that they wanted to receive legal education and support regarding their rights as an employee (e.g., appropriate pay, appropriate number of work hours, access to breaks, access to benefits); this would help them ensure that they are not being taken advantage of in the workplace, which would enhance their well-being. They also explained that Upcoming Youth programs should help employers and school administrators to be more sensitive and accommodating to youth’s individual, unique needs, including in relation to their mental health and substance use challenges.

I think if you have one of those programs where you actually are dealing with employers, it's about just as much teaching the employer how to deal with [mental health and substance use] and work with the individual, so that they learn in the future kind of how to deal with stuff like that. (Participant 11)

High-contact, individualized, and integrated support

Participants described the structure they would prefer for Upcoming Youth interventions. Notably, they preferred that interventions involve ongoing high contact with service providers. They also wanted the interventions to be individualized to them and include multiple types of services that are integrated into the Upcoming Youth intervention. One youth described their preference for high-contact, one-on-one support:

Have someone—actually someone guiding you into that whole transition of getting a job and also staying there once you get a job. Just like doing, let's say, weekly check-ups. (Participant 12)

They also expressed the importance of clinician characteristics. They wanted to work with staff who are understanding of their situations and non-judgmental. For example:

I would just want someone who understands, I guess? And just no judgment vibes mostly. (Participant 5)

Participants emphasized the importance of providing individualized support for Upcoming Youth that provides the type of customized care that each individual youth needs; this should reflect the goals that the youth is trying to achieve in their personal journey through schooling and employment. For example, one youth explained:

I guess just individualizing the type of, the needs of the participant, really, the individual. And making it more accessible and one on one and just, we’re meeting them up where they are at. (Participant 13)

Another youth expanded on these thoughts:

I think it's especially important to take everyone's individual needs into account. And I guess sort of help them out, specifically, with their goals and achieving them, setting them up and all of that, rather than I guess, trying to make everyone sort of fit a mold of the program. (Participant 14)

In addition, young people expressed wanting integrated care, i.e., they wanted access to multiple, coordinated services within one location; this reflects the preference for access to mental health care, substance use services, and other personalized care that meets the needs of the individual youth, expanding beyond education and employment needs. For example:

I think if you were to have, like, using the concept of a one-stop building where you know, you go in, you get your counselling service, you also get your employment services. (Participant 9)