Connecting with Disconnected Youth
By Melissa Deets, Workforce Solutions Specialist, Monster Government Solutions
A minimum of 75 percent of State and Local Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding must be used for out-of-school youth programs, and the age range of this at-risk demographic has been expanded from 16-21 to 16-24 to encompass young adults. This demographic desperately needs access to career resources and opportunities.
A recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics found that 45 percent of high school dropouts between the ages of 20-24 are currently unemployed. That’s way too many young people that do not have a path to providing for their families and becoming productive members of their communities. A lot of at-risk youth face real obstacles. Some at-risk youth have never had a job, not to mention a solid resume. Without information and resources on how to build a career path, the alternative path for their futures are bleak.
So how can we reconnect with disconnected youth? The first step is letting people know that there are resources available to them. With today’s young people, you need to reach them where they are - and that begins online. When I was a caseworker, even if I did not know where youth clients were located, I knew they were on their phones, tablets, or interacting online. A recent report from the Pew Research Center shows that 90 percent of 18-29 year-olds use social media, 82 percent of those individuals use Facebook. It is critical that workforce development boards (WDBs) leverage social media channels to engage youth, and direct them to customized resource centers for more information that can help them change their lives.
And while these “new school” engagement approaches are extremely effective, we can’t forget about tried and true, old-school methods. We’ve seen a number of WDBs use tools like Google Maps to identify neighborhoods with clusters of disconnected youth, and use that data to inform “boots on the ground” strategies. There’s no substitute for getting out into the community, listening to the challenges folks are dealing with on a personal level, and sharing information on how we can help. For example, Monster’s “Making it Count” workshops have reached more than 25 million youths with available resources for finding jobs, internships, apprenticeships, educational programs, and financial aid opportunities.
Once disconnected youth know about these resources and are engaged within the system, it is important to get them excited and keep them excited. Many of these youth clients are the first members of their families to get a GED, or be certified for a trade skill. It’s important to get them pumped up about being a trailblazer that’s reshaping the direction of their lives. There are quick wins like the personality assessments and career development tools that I discussed in my previous post, and those are critical to building excitement initially, but the difficult part is maintaining engagement over the long haul. Celebrating mini milestones along the way is critical to success. Did your youth clients get to class on time? Did he or she earn a credential? Send them a congratulatory text, track their overall progress towards their goals, and keep delivering that positive reinforcement throughout the process. Youth are often tackling these life skills for the first time. That ongoing sense of success and accomplishment, even if it’s small, can provide the motivation they need to keep going!
For more on WIOA and how Monster Government Solutions visit our
Monster WIOA Resource Center