Vocational Education and Training is designed to prepare youth for initial entry into employment. Vocational education utilizes hands-on learning while offering opportunity and exposure to a variety of skill-based activities within a career-focused environment. The goal of vocational education is to focus on enhancing independent life skills and increasing vocational skills of youth, with the end result of reducing recidivism through increasing protective factors.
Vocational education can include, but is not limited to culinary skills, general household cleaning and maintenance, yard care and maintenance, woodworking/light construction, computers/electronics, small engine, and vehicle maintenance. According to the World Health Organization (2009), developing independent life skills among youth has proven effective in avoiding violence, increasing social and emotional competencies, aids in conflict resolution, reduces violent tendencies, and is helpful in job attainment. Protective factors can be enhanced by providing opportunities to develop and practice life and vocational skills in a safe and therapeutic environment.
So, what are Protective Factors?
Protective factors are characteristics that help reduce the likelihood of engaging in negative behaviors. Here, they have been broken down into five main categories:
- Individual- values, attitudes, skills, knowledge
- Family- strong bond, functionality, management
- Peer- involvement in activities, attachment, norms/values
- School/education- performance, bond/attachment
- Community- norms/values, organized, bond/attachment
So, what are Risk Factors?
Risk factors are indicators of the likelihood, or probability, of engaging in negative behaviors. Here, they have broken down into five main categories:
- Individual- lower IQ, antisocial behavior, hyperactivity
- Family- maltreatment, violence, divorce, family structure
- Peer- deviant peers, peer rejection, negative norms/values
- School/education- poor bond/attachment, low achievement, lack of goals
- Community- disadvantaged neighborhood, disorganized, accessibility to weapons
So, how can we increase Protective Factors?
Increased protective factors are associated with the reduction of involvement in health-compromising behaviors, as well as contributing to positive outcomes for youth, families, and our communities.
- Individual- exposure to new skills, increase self-esteem, increase competency, formulate healthy hobbies
- Family- effective communication, connectedness, stability, parental monitoring, consistency, clear expectations
- Peer- develop prosocial relationships, integrity, positive norms and values, supportive
- School/education- increase problem-solving skills, work readiness, connectedness, support, high standards
- Community- develop prosocial relationships, give back to community, attachment with community organizations
Individualized vocational education and training plays a central role in, though not limited to, helping youth build self-esteem, increase competency, develop prosocial relationships, and formulate healthy hobbies. Kenny et al. (2001) found that poor social skills among male juvenile offenders was directly related to recidivism of offending. In a meta-analysis completed by Lipsey (2009), found that various treatment modalities, including vocational counseling and training, were effective as prevention programs for juvenile offenders and helped reduce recidivism. Developing independent life skills and vocational training, along with developing intrapersonal relationships and interpersonal relationships, is vital to enhancing protective factors for youth, whether in residential treatment or not. When we enhance protective factors, we mitigate risk, reduce recidivism, and increase the likelihood of success in the community, which is the ultimate goal.
Kenny, D., Keogh, T., Seidler, K. 2001. Predictors of Recidivism in Australian Juvenile Sex Offenders: Implications for Treatment. Sexual Abuse. Vol 13, Issue 2, pp. 131 – 148
Lipsey, Mark W. 2009. The Primary Factors that Characterize Effective Interventions with Juvenile Offenders: A Meta-Analytic Overview. Victims and Offenders. 4:124-147
World Health Organization. 2009. Preventing violence by developing life skills in children and adolescents. Geneva: World Health Organization
This article was contributed by Stacey Trushenski-Carlson, Nexus Talent Development Manager for Nexus Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.