Years into the economic recovery, young adults still face difficulty connecting to the labor market. For young people of color, the Great Recession has had long-lasting effects and has compounded systemic obstacles. Living in communities without a strong employment base, attending low-performing schools, and lacking networks of people who can help them get a start make it difficult for young people to get a firm footing in today’s workforce. Partnerships of workforce programs in five communities — Cleveland, Hartford, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and Seattle — are engaged in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Generation Work Initiative to collaboratively examine local workforce systems, identify problems, and problem-solve to help connect more young adults to employment.
In Generation Work communities, we have seen providers working in new ways to identify and cultivate job opportunities that meet a range of young adults’ needs — including connecting them to jobs that provide opportunities to learn; jobs with supportive supervisory and mentoring practices; and jobs with scheduling practices that are supportive of a young adult’s need to balance work, school, and family care responsibilities. Workforce providers are using a range of strategies to identify and develop these kinds of employment opportunities. Some of these include:
- Re-thinking how they use industry partnerships and associations to forge better connections with more businesses;
- Encouraging businesses to use skills-based hiring methods;
- Asking local business champions to encourage other businesses to hire young adults; and
- Expanding the traditional job developer role to include more intensive engagement with businesses around their workplace practices that affect young people’s success once on the job.
WSI’s new brief, “Now Jobs” in Young Adult Workforce Programming highlights an approach that crosses several of these strategies. A “now job” strategy builds a step of interim employment into the continuum of workforce development services that prepares young adults for long-term career opportunities. An effective “now job” strategy requires having conversations with businesses that start with questions about workplace practices and opportunity rather than focusing mainly on hiring needs. Hiring managers are asked to consider their workplace environment, who succeeds and who leaves, and operations in a workplace, including on-boarding, scheduling, and supervision practices, among other things. Doing this work requires considerable resources on several fronts to support the longevity of contact and range of activity required for workforce development agencies to build their own staff capacity, establish and maintain relationships with businesses, and engage with young people to help them achieve the stability needed to make progress on longer-term career goals.
WSI’s “Now Jobs” in Young Adult Workforce Programming highlights practical issues for workforce development providers to consider as they strategize with employers about how, together, they can develop and support retention of a skilled workforce that meets both businesses’ and young people’s needs. The research brief offers examples based on the work of Our Piece of the Pie in Hartford, Connecticut and the Young Adult Resource Center in Cleveland, Ohio. These programs have incorporated subsidized “now job” strategies to provide an incentive that helps them develop different relationships with businesses.
Tweet Living in communities without a strong employment base, attending low-performing schools, and lacking networks of people who can help them get a start make it difficult for young people to get a firm footing in today’s workforce. “Now jobs” can help overcome these barriers.
The Economic Opportunities Program’s Workforce Strategies Initiative is working with the Annie E. Casey Foundation as a national research partner to the Generation Work Initiative. We are grateful to the Annie E. Casey Foundation for their support for this research.
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