Perceptions of the effects of workforce development training on vocational interests of adjudicated African American youth with disabilities



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This phenomenological study was undertaken in an attempt to understand the meaning of the experience of being in workforce development training. African American male youth who had recently or were presently involved in the workforce development training were selected as participants. Using a naturalistic inquiry approach, the study examined the perceptions of the effects of workforce training on vocational interests of adjudicated African American male youth with disabilities incarcerated in two Texas juvenile detention facilities. The study examined the relevant factors, influences and experiences of incarcerated African American male youth with disabilities participating in workforce development training on their vocational interests. Also of interests was how involvement in the workforce development training program while incarcerated facilitated the career exploration process undertaken by these adolescents to test ideas about “what I want to be when I grow up.” The principal questions of this study explored at whether the workforce training provided by Project RIO-Y, home, school and community would be positive action in support of prior influences for African American male youth. The findings clearly indicated that a number of factors, such as family is a major influence in developing vocational interests, school has limited influence on the youth vocational interests, community plays a large part in directing the youth to support services and creates an environment for them to go through vocational development stages, but with limited exposure to careers, and Project RIO-Y influenced this small group of African American males’ perception that their vocational interests through training were enhanced with vocational exploration and school information to pursue careers. Although many of the youth in the study had not experience work or participated in vocational education in school, they had developed some work experience with soft skills training while in the program. They also had classroom training to develop their vocational interests while they were incarcerated.