Enhancing Conversations Between Employers and Workforce Professionals

Posted October 14, 2020, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Young person working while wearing a face mask

A new report funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation captures the kinds of conversations that workforce development professionals have with employers to learn about the types of job and training opportunities available to young people.

The publication, produced by The Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program is based on a survey of 210 individuals who focus on connecting people with job, educational and training opportunities. Participants were based in one of three cities — Cleveland, Indianapolis and Philadelphia — all of which are served by the Casey Foundation’s Generation Work™.

What the survey revealed

The survey, conducted in late 2019 and early 2020, found that most respondents regularly asked employers for basic details, such as their number of job openings, wage data, and benefits information. At the same time, a majority of respondents reported that they never, almost never or only sometimes asked employers about:

  • goals for diversity and equity, in regard to age, gender or race and ethnicity;
  • guidelines for flexible scheduling for workers who are in school or engaged in other coursework;
  • data on how long employees are retained in jobs and why workers leave jobs;
  • information about how wages and benefits employers offer compare to others in their fields;
  • policies around promotions and raises; and
  • approaches for coaching, mentoring and training workers.

Asking about such issues can help determine if employers offer opportunities that are aligned with young people’s needs and career goals, according to the report. These inquiries are often helpful to employers, too, who may recognize gaps in their practices that can undermine their goals. For instance, asking employers why workers tend to leave jobs may, in fact, force them to address issues around scheduling, pay, training and other policies that lead to lower retention.

“It’s important to understand what conversations are taking place between workforce development practitioners and employers,” says Allison Gerber, a senior associate with the Casey Foundation. “It’s through this communication and relationship-building that workforce professionals can identify and promote employment and training opportunities that are beneficial for youth and young adults. This is especially critical today, as the COVID-19 pandemic has hit young people hard.”

Engaging employers more effectively

Generation Work partners have implemented — or are seeking to implement — strategies that can help workforce groups build closer relationships with employers, according to the report. This involves developing trainings and workshops for employers on various topics, including the adoption of race and equity practices, and the creation of new tools for workforce practitioners. In the Cleveland area, for instance, local partners produced a document that includes key questions workforce professionals should ask employer partners — including inquiries about scheduling, mentoring and training.

“We are glad to see our partners taking critical steps to engage employers more effectively, even if their approaches are new or in their early stages,” Gerber says. “We hope workforce professionals will review this report and these practices and be inspired to develop tactics that work for them.”

Learn more about the Generation Work

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