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New report highlights 27 occupations that meet the needs of at-risk youth

LatinaLista — Next month, First Lady Michelle Obama will return to her hometown of Chicago to address various business and community leaders concerned with the increasing rise in violence among the Windy City’s youth. The White House reports that Mrs. Obama will be asking the audience to invest in ‘expanded opportunities’ for youth across Chicago.


Of course, the youth targeted in Mrs. Obama’s speech will be those considered ‘at-risk.’ Young people, mainly because of their circumstances, for whom crime is marketed as a more profitable way to make a living than earning minimum wage flipping burgers or stacking boxes — and that just may be the crux of the violence problem in Chicago and elsewhere.

Of course, not all at-risk youth are criminals but they do all suffer from a reality that includes not being academically prepared or skilled to get a good enough job in today’s economy that would help them to honestly pay their way out of their current situations.

A new brief by the Administration for Children and Families and Mathematica Policy Research outlines how most programs directed at at-risk youth transitioning into adulthood mainly focus on mentoring or life skills and don’t do enough to address the eternal question: How can I make a living, Now?

The brief, Connecting At-Risk Youth to Promising Occupations, highlights jobs that meet the every-day realities of at-risk youth — generate livable/reasonable pay; don’t require an expensive upfront investment of time or money in training or education; the job will continue to be in demand for the foreseeable future; and, there’s potential for promotions.

Researchers of the brief identified two industries that fit this criteria:

Health Care:

Overall, we identified 13 occupations in the health care industry that meet our criteria for promising occupations. The number of needed licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, according to the BLS, will grow faster than average from 2010 through 2020. These positions require a postsecondary nondegree certificate and offer a median wage of $42,461. A second promising entry-level position that also requires a postsecondary nondegree certificate is dental assistant, which has a median wage of $35,195. Two other occupa- tions expected to grow much faster than average are dental hygienist and diagnostic medical sonographer. These jobs, which require an associate’s degree, offer a median wage of more than $60,000.


Promising Healthcare Occupation/Annual Median Wage

Dental assistants/33,470-35,195
Dental hygienists/68,250-71,767
Diagnostic medical sonographers/64,380-67,697
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses/40,380-42,461
Massage therapists/34,900-36,698
Medical assistants/28,600-30,074
Medical records and health information technicians/32,350-34,017
Pharmacy technicians/28,400-29,863
Radiation therapists/74,890-78,749
Radiologic technologists/54,340-57,140
Registered nurses/64,690-68,023
Respiratory therapists/54,280-57,077
Veterinary technologists and technicians/29,710-31,241



We identified 14 promising occupations in the construction and extraction occupations group. Many promising occupations in construction require little formal, school-based education, but they do require apprenticeships. A high school diploma (or equivalent) plus an apprenticeship are required to become a boiler-maker, brickmason, blockmason, stonemason, carpenter, electrician, glazier, plumber, or structural iron and steel worker. These occupations are expected to grow at faster-than-average rates from 2010 through 2020. Median wages range from $38,528 for glaziers to $57,455 for boilermakers.

Promising occupations in construction that do not require an apprenticeship but do require some on-the-job training include cement mason, terrazzo worker, construction equipment operator, construction laborer and helper, drywall and ceiling tile installer and taper, hazardous materials removal worker, and insulation worker. These positions may be good entry positions in the construction field and can be a precursor to an apprenticeship program or, with experience and additional training, lead to management positions such as team leaders, site supervisors, and other types of project management.


Promising Construction Industry Jobs/Annual Media Wages

Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons/45,410-47,750
Cement masons and terrazzo workers/35,530-37,361
Construction equipment operators/39,460-41,493
Construction laborers and helpers/28,410-29,874
Drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers/38,290-40,263
Hazardous materials removal workers/37,500-39,432
Insulation workers/35,110-36,919
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters/46,600-49,001
Reinforcing iron and rebar workers/38,430-40,410
Structural iron and steel workers/44,540-46,835

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