While workforce development programs can be a viable option to address employment needs for youth during the transition to adulthood, the current evidence suggests the benefit of these programs is stronger for White than Black participants. The project aims to understand and address how Black youth’s stress burden and mental health affects participation in and the outcomes of workforce development programs. Through community-based participatory action research, the partners will build, test, and increase understanding of workforce development programs, as well as examine how the impact of mental health-enhanced workforce development programs can benefit employment, economic, and mental health outcomes for young people. The team will use photovoice and focus group approaches to elicit youth’s insights on the current mental health challenges and experiences participating in the Focus: HOPE workforce development programs. They will then use the qualitative findings to design mental health supports for participating youth. A randomized trial conducted on 160 youth, aged 18-25, will compare current workforce development programs and workforce development programs with added mental health resources. To understand the mechanisms of how and why the intervention did or did not produce impacts, the team will collect qualitative data from a subset of the participants in the randomized trial. To support the institutional change portion of the grant, the university will: 1) provide seed money for the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center to support youth-focused partnership work, 2) offer consultation and professional development workshops to support faculty interested in strengthening their public engagement research skills, 3) collaborate with the Faculty Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs to convene a workgroup dedicated to addressing institutional barriers to sustained community-engaged research, and 4) convene a mini-conference at the university to feature the work of research practice partnerships. On the practice side, the grant will advance Focus: HOPE’s access to, interpretation of, and use of research through capacity building training for staff.
The University of Michigan School of Public Health and Focus: HOPE will conduct and use research to understand how mental health-enhanced workforce development programs may benefit employment, economic, and mental health outcomes for Black youth.