Helping Young Men Find Their Way

(by Lance Erlick)

With 6.6 million men under correctional supervision (probation, parole, jail or prison) in the U.S. and 2.7 million less men than women enrolled in college, how do we go about engaging young men to see they have a future? Instead of preparing for jobs and a valued place in our society, young men have turned to drugs, gangs, violence, or checked out in other ways. Why? Because they don’t see a better place for themselves.

Traditional male oriented jobs have either gone overseas, to women, or to immigrants. Fundamentally, the economy has changed and given our desire to improve our standards of living, this was inevitable. Where once, farm related jobs represented 70% of the economy, now they have dropped to 3%. Automation and improved farm technology improved the productivity of farms, improving the standard of living of farmers, but with far fewer individuals involved. The same thing happened in manufacturing. Even without exporting manufacturing jobs, the push for higher incomes has led to more automation and fewer individuals employed in manufacturing the products we use. If all the manufacturing jobs returned to the US, we still would not employ the number of workers we did in the 1960s.

Basically, the world has changed and too many young men have not adapted. So, how do we help them see a better future than drugs, gangs, and extremist causes?