By Caitlin Schnur, Workforce Research and Policy Fellow, NTJN
Serving communities in the Greater Boston area as well as Springfield, MA, Roca, Inc.’s mission is clear: to help at-risk youth currently on a path toward prison overcome violence and poverty. Committed to shaping a future in which the highest-risk young people can succeed in their communities rather than being locked into the criminal justice system, Roca primarily targets 17 to 24-year-old men who are at a high risk of adult incarceration. One of Roca’s central components is its Transitional Jobs (TJ) programming, which offers youth subsidized jobs primarily in general maintenance, custodial work, and landscaping sectors (as well as some work in culinary arts and manufacturing) to prepare them for unsubsidized employment.
Recently selected to lead a $27 million social impact financing initiative to reduce recidivism among at-risk youth in Massachusetts, Roca’s work is poised to become a model for the rest of the country. In this interview, Roca’s Chief Strategy and Administrative Officer, Lili Elkins, shares why it’s important to help high-risk youth get and keep jobs, describes why TJ is an effective employment program model for Roca participants, and explains why repeated failure can be a good thing.