In October, The Bridgespan Group, a consultancy for nonprofits and philanthropists, published a short paper urging organizations and individuals concerned about youth unemployment to consider several key questions. Entitled "Three Questions to Ask if You're Serious about Jobs for Youth," the piece begins by painting a stark picture of the employment prospects of young people in America. According to Bridgespan, 14 million young people ages 16 to 24, representing more than a third of individuals in this age group, face some sort of "employment challenge," ranging from a lack of connection to education or employment opportunities to working in a position that does not take advantage of their formal education. Approximately half of these young people are "disconnected" from education and employment, a disproportionate number of whom are black and Latino.
Through their interviews with a range of nonprofits, foundations, and large employers concerned about youth employment, Bridgespan identified three key questions that can help to guide the work of organizations interested in helping to combat youth unemployment:
1. Who are the employers most likely to hire youth in my region? - Bridgespan's interviews revealed the importance of connecting job training programs with the business sectors that are most likely to be looking to hire entry-level employees. This involves understanding which local sectors are growing and what types of skills are needed to obtain positions in those sectors. The article also notes that, while large companies, defined as those with over 500 employees, make up less than 1% of all employers, they employ more than 40% of youth who work in the private sector, suggesting that the potential payoffs of building relationships with these companies can be substantial.
2. How do I present employers with the business case for hiring youth? - One nonprofit highlighted in the article spoke about the importance of changing the mindset of both employers and youth about the value of youth employment. By providing young people with both technical and professional skills, and offering staff support to help deal with problems that might arise on the job, the organization is able to make the case that hiring youth has real value for a business. Most of the nonprofits interviewed were interested in hiring staff who had business experience or backgrounds that would allow them to better connect with potential employers. Some organizations Bridgespan interviewed worked with employers to determine the skills and competencies that they needed potential employees to have, and further engaged employers by having them teach portions of workforce development programs.
3. How do I tailor skills training to what employers really need?- A number of of organizations interviewed for the article described partnerships between workforce development nonprofits and employers that resulted in stronger training materials that better reflected the types of skills, such as conflict resolution and customer service, that are needed in the real world. In one case, a partnership with a local business association helped to identify an opportunity to develop a customized training program for youth to meet a need for employees in a local industry.
To read the full piece, please visit Bridgespan's website here.