A new report by the National Fund for Workforce Solutions documents effective strategies identified over the past three years to engage and retain unemployed and unenrolled 18-25-year-olds in sector-based preparation and placement programs. The report, Connecting Young Adults to Skills and Jobs, summarizes lessons learned through the Young Adult Sectoral Initiative (YA Initiative), which included almost 20 communities active in the National Fund’s young adult work.
Consistent with the National Fund’s dual customer approach, the YA Initiative was designed to help participating communities build models to equip lower-skilled young adults with skills and tools required to meet the needs of employers in high-demand industries. The YA Initiative featured several different types of activities, including a peer learning community, focused technical assistance, and an Employer Champion program, which recognized employer partners who have been exemplars in helping to train and hire young adults.
Lessons learned through the YA Initiative include the importance of:
- Efficient collaboration, which builds on the strengths of each partner and minimizes duplication of effort; and effective data collection and analysis, which enables partners to identify in-demand employment sectors, and to understand the characteristics and needs of the young adult population.
- Focused young adult recruitment strategies, which will often involve partnerships with community based organizations; and training for community-based partners to ensure that they understand employer needs.
- Pre-enrollment screening and sector exposure, to ensure a good fit; organizing young adults into training cohorts, which builds camaraderie and esprit de corps; and ongoing guidance and support, to overcome barriers and to provide career counseling and navigation.
- Work experience and career exposure, including for older youth and young adults while they are still in school; and strategies to bridge transitions into and through training, and during and after job placement.
- Capitalizing on WIOA, using its emphases on career pathways and co-enrollment to build sector training programs which meet the needs of both young adults and employers.
Looking forward, the report contains several recommendations to policymakers, philanthropies, and other stakeholders to nurture and expand YA sector:
- Offer dedicated and flexible funding, to enable communities to design, implement, and scale sector models that meet the needs of both employers and young adults.
- Intentionally focus on lower-skilled young adults, offering an appropriate mix of education, training, and work experience to overcome barriers and position young adults for success.
- Raise the floor, by improving the quality of entry-level jobs, where many young adults are employed.
- Provide additional WIOA guidance, specifically around how states and local boards can build career pathways and sector strategies that offer efficient access to multiple core programs.
- Offer additional technical assistance, both for communities which have some experience with YA sector models, as well as those who are just entering this space.
The report also includes a one-page graphic tool (Appendix A, p. 16) which arrays and summarizes key steps in building effective sector strategies for young adults, as well as in-depth profiles of the work of two leaders in National Fund’s YA Initiative.