As YouthBuild programs are placing a greater emphasis on placement and retention, the DOL YouthBuild TA Collaborative continues to support this need by providing resources designed to strengthen placement practices.
Often, placement work seems to begin at the end of active programming because there are so many challenges staff are trying to meet with their participants: trauma care and counseling; low academic levels in reading and math; unstable housing; and attendance and retention, to name a few. But if we only focus on what we perceive to be the immediate needs of youth, then participants won’t be given the connections to post-exit supports and pathways that are ultimately necessary for them to become productive, self-sustaining adults. This post-exit planning is as critical to their future as getting the right case management, counseling, and academic support. But this work needs to start from day one as the partnerships and pathways necessary to connect every youth are diverse and complicated. It’s as important that the YouthBuild program have personal connections to these opportunities as it is for the youth. In developing the DOL YouthBuild Staffing for Placement Toolkit, the goal was to assist programs with thinking about how to design their staffing for the full 40-month period of grant performance toward the goal of successful placement outcomes for youth participants.
Perhaps most important to placement success is strong staffing and partnerships. Strong staffing is now a central focus at DOL YouthBuild programs with a required Job Developer/Placement Specialist position as part of the required grant staff. The Job Developer/Placement Specialist should be the driving force for placement and retention, a role that performs essential tasks and duties for dual constituents:
- YouthBuild participants, both during active program participation and in transition for exit and follow-up.
- Employers and post-secondary education institutions who want strong candidates for their businesses, and advanced education and training programs.
Specifically, the Job Developer/Placement Specialist’s particular scope of work for serving both of his/her target audiences is:
- To network with private and public sector employers and businesses to develop career-building internships, placements, and retention in placements for YouthBuild participants. This includes building out long-term employment placement relationships in in-demand first jobs and career pathway employment that satisfies employer/employee needs.
- To create, compile, and implement first employment and pre-apprenticeship career curricula, including hands-on practice and experience relevant to specific career pathways, and to teach, train, and/or supervise an approved program partner to provide YouthBuild participants employment content and skills
Just as the Job Developer/Placement Specialist wants the participants to be ready, he/she must also prepare employers and post-secondary education partners to take an active interest in the YouthBuild participants and see them as an integral part of the immediate and future workforce. A great example of this is YouthBuild North Shore’s (Salem, MA) “Try Before You Hire” initiative, which utilizes a flyer to market program participants to potential employers (Click here to access flyer).
While YouthBuild participants and graduates get the chance to gain hands-on work experience, the employer gets to see the participants in action and how they respond to the work experience over a set length of time. In addition, the YouthBuild program gets an employer partner who is invested in their program’s growth and success and interested in hiring youth after exit. If managed well, this initiative is a win for the participants, the employer partner, and the YouthBuild program.
The parent organization invests in a central staff member to drive placement, who in turn develops strong employer and post-secondary connections, and in turn, these employers invest in the youth. The YouthBuild Staffing for Placement Toolkit is a great resource to initiate this process and offers strategies to create, build, and refine your placement component. In the toolkit, you will find the following:
- Job Developer/Placement Specialist scope of work or job description template
- Narrative Guide for key responsibilities during different phases of the YouthBuild grant
- Visual map of the interlocking aspects of the Job Developer/Placement Specialist(s) work and how and when they interface with youth participants and external placement partners
- This section of the toolkit builds out from the core Job Developer/Placement Specialist staffing to establishing partnerships with American Job Centers, as required. The strategies were gathered from DOL YouthBuild program staff.
- This section provides suggestions and an adaptable sample employer satisfaction survey that has been designed for use by a YouthBuild site to support a committed, active, work-based learning and/or placement relationship with employer partners.
- This section offers a collection of resources for planning, establishing, and growing employer partnerships. Resources such as e-Learning series, manuals, templates, and more are hyperlinked to the Department of Labor’s WorkforceGPS portal.
- Partnering with Employers Program Manual offers information on researching the local labor market, marketing your program, and building strategic partnerships with employers and post-secondary institutions.
- Strategic Postsecondary and Employer Partners provides strategies and foundational questions to building partnerships with post-secondary and employer partners as well as identifying the importance of developing both types of partnerships.
- The Post-Program Placement e-Learning Series: Employer Partnerships and Post-Program Placement e- Learning Series: Sector Strategies feature experts from YouthBuild USA and local programs highlighting important practices in building and sustaining relationships with employers.
Be sure to catch the archive of the DOL YouthBuild Webinar held on Tuesday, February 7th: Supporting Placement through Staffing and Partnerships. The webinar provided an overview of the YouthBuild Staffing for Placement Toolkit and included peer sharing from two established YouthBuild programs’ job developer staffing models and strategies for creating partnerships with employers and post-secondary institutions.
We will be continuing to develop additional resources for the YouthBuild Staffing for Placement Toolkit so if you have any successful and/or best practice resources, please let us know. The best resources and strategies are those that have been tested and proven in the field!