Improving youth and worksite supervisor experiences through auto-ethnography, journey mapping, and co-design

How might we reimagine short-term jobs to create long-term career pathways for youth?

A short video introducing this project.

Challenge Context
The Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Employment Development runs a summer jobs program called YouthWorks. They place 8000 young people between the ages of 14 and 21 in work experiences, across 1000 worksites every summer. 

Only a handful of year-round permanent staff and a team of temporary positions support the youth and the worksite supervisors, which can make managing the end-to-end experience challenging.

Fifty percent of these young people are working their very first job and research shows that this short-term intervention can create a meaningful impact on a young person’s life.

This project explored opportunities to create positive and productive job placements for all YouthWorks participants, with a particular focus on embedding transferable skill development into every youth position, regardless of host organization scope of work or previous experience training and managing youth.

Download the full project process publication here.


Project Team
Molly Reddy, in collaboration with staff members from Baltimore City’s Mayor’s Office of Employment Development and YouthWorks, student and supervisor contributors, and Rachel Serra (visual design support). Faculty advisors Thomas Gardner, Mike Weikert, Lee Davis, Becky Slogeris.

Youth contributors mapping out their pain points and bright spots in the process.

Utilized qualitative interviews, observations, participatory journey mapping, and auto-ethnographic data collection to inform recommendations and service roadmap.

  • Youth surveys and focus groups, semi-structured and intercept interviews conducted with youth, their parents, worksite supervisors, YouthWorks staff, and potential employers
  • Communication audit and competitive landscape analysis
  • Pattern finding in journey maps created by 15 young adults tracking milestones and influences between first jobs and the first job they loved
  • Training a group of 9 youth workers in journey mapping (and compensating them) to document and reflect on their own experiences during the program and to contribute to design of program improvements
  • Collaborative youth and community co-design sessions to support final deliverables (sometimes at their workplace and sometimes at the MICA Center for Social Design, where the workshop always ends in a ball pit photo shoot!) to inform the creation of an introductory professional skills curriculum and toolkit

This project won additional funding through the Launching Artists in Baltimore (LAB) Fellowship which supported:

  • Implementation of a brand refresh and redesigned communication strategy 
  • Revision of participant and supervisor handbooks
  • Design of an automatic resume generator tool in partnership with CodeWorks Baltimore
  • Co-creation of a foundational 5-part transferable skills curriculum focused on communication, teamwork, problem solving, mindset, and future planning that was deployed at 700 work sites to positive reviews from site supervisors.
Post-workshop celebration by youth contributors.

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