Young Black men are the target of a new project aimed at pulling them out of the doldrums.
‘Flex to Launch’ is hinged on data from Statistics Canada that shows widespread stagnation among young Black men across the country, 20% of whom are identified as being in the so-called NEET category: ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training.”
In addition, the report also indicates a steady decline in the proportion of young Black men obtaining any kind of post-secondary diploma since 2006 compared to their peers in the wider community and to young Black women.
Dr. Robert Whitley, a research scientist at the Douglas Research Centre and assistant professor of Psychiatry at McGill University, draws a straight line between the NEET category and the phenomenon known as “failure to launch syndrome,” which describes those young men who are experiencing difficulties completing an education, entering the workforce and moving out of their parent’s home.
He says it is “a serious issue that can contribute to exclusion, marginalization, poverty, isolation and adverse mental health.”
So Whitley and a team of researchers that includes Dr. Stanley Chase, a professor at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Toronto Metropolitan University, and Valerie Gordon-Williams, a community worker and educator in Alternative development Solution, a project management consulting service, collaborated to build “Flex to Launch” as a tool to help young Black men between the ages of 18 and 28 develop what they describe as “soft skills” that will bolster confidence and experience in both social and professional settings.
These skills, according to Whitley “can help them succeed in employment, education and mental health.”
Chase, a former Montrealer with extensive experience in education and developmental projects brings a lot of intellectual heft ‘Flex to Launch.’
He says the project will provide Black youth “a bridge to something bigger” by equipping them with “essential life-skills and guidance.”
“It will also provide them with opportunities to change ingrained negativities.”
The project, which is officially titled, ‘Addressing Failure to Launch in Young Black Men through Participatory Action Research,’ will be delivered in a 16-week on-line course, which will cover topics such as study habits, communication skills, networking, job interviews and psychological resiliency, all taught by experienced teachers.
Dr. Whitley talked reiterated that the aim is to teach participants “how to fish” and “give them wings to fly” while at the same time, build a peer support system around them that will include a three-year follow-up period.
Gordon-Williams, who has lent her skills to various organizations including the BCRC and the QBBE says that the curriculum will be developed in collaboration with the Black community. The next step, she says, is to set up focus groups with young Black men, parents, Black educators and community workers to help shape and give perspective to the project.
To get involved or for more information of the ‘Flex to Launch’ project, email Dr. Whitley at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 514-761-6131 ext 3436.