Workforce Strategies Shift to Serve Young People During Crisis

Posted July 8, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Young person making deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across the coun­try, work­force pro­grams — includ­ing Casey’s Gen­er­a­tion Work part­ners — are shift­ing their strate­gies to ensure young peo­ple are gain­ing the skills need­ed to obtain employ­ment and con­tin­ue build­ing career paths in the face of an unprece­dent­ed pan­dem­ic that’s caused eco­nom­ic tur­moil that’s hit young work­ers espe­cial­ly hard.

With less edu­ca­tion and short­er career tracks than old­er work­ers, young peo­ple may find them­selves fac­ing a chal­leng­ing employ­ment land­scape. Research sug­gests that keep­ing young work­ers con­nect­ed to edu­ca­tion, train­ing, men­tor­ing and paid employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties is vital, as those unem­ployed for long peri­ods ear­ly in their careers tend to expe­ri­ence depressed wages lat­er in life and are at high­er risk of future unemployment.

To ensure they can pro­vide their ser­vices safe­ly dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, Casey’s work­force part­ners have: shift­ed pro­grams online; assist­ed young peo­ple to obtain tech­nol­o­gy they need to access dig­i­tal ser­vices; and increased edu­ca­tion­al and train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that cen­ter remote work.

We’re impressed by how our part­ners are adapt­ing to the chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances cre­at­ed by the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic,” says Alli­son Ger­ber, a senior asso­ciate with the Casey Foun­da­tion. We hope that these exam­ples are use­ful to oth­er orga­ni­za­tions as they seek to help young peo­ple gain employ­ment and career skills in these chal­leng­ing times.”

Piv­ot­ing to meet the needs of young people

From Seat­tle to Bal­ti­more, here are some exam­ples of how Casey part­ners are chang­ing their strate­gies due to the pandemic:

Pro­vid­ing tech­nol­o­gy, shift­ing programming

Good­will of Cen­tral & South­ern Indiana’s Excel Cen­ter — a pub­lic char­ter school for adults seek­ing a high school diplo­ma that also helps them tran­si­tion to ongo­ing edu­ca­tion and employ­ment — pur­chased 600 new lap­tops for par­tic­i­pants and is work­ing with local inter­net providers to ensure stu­dents have reli­able con­nec­tions and tech­ni­cal sup­port for dis­tance learning.

All teach­ers have moved their course­work online and have held reg­u­lar online office hours where they pro­vide one-on-one tutor­ing and assist stu­dents with oth­er needs. Teach­ers and coach­es have also reg­u­lar­ly reached out by phone or web calls to stu­dents to ensure they are on track with edu­ca­tion­al and employ­ment goals. Some cre­den­tial­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties offered by the Excel Cen­ter have also moved online, includ­ing a pro­gram for phar­ma­cy tech­ni­cians. Depend­ing on health con­di­tions, the cen­ter plans to soon restart offer­ing some in-per­son cours­es and coaching.

In Cleve­land, non­prof­it Towards Employ­ment has moved a job-readi­ness course it offers online, as well as its sup­port ser­vices — which include coach­ing, career plan­ning and assis­tance apply­ing for social ben­e­fits. For peo­ple who have con­tin­ued to work at job sites, the orga­ni­za­tion main­tained its efforts to pro­vide trans­porta­tion vouch­ers and work equip­ment, such as work boots and hard hats, and has helped some par­ents obtain child care. As some employ­ers re-open, the orga­ni­za­tion is restart­ing its work plac­ing young peo­ple that it serves into four- to six-week jobs that help them build new skills and gain work expe­ri­ence. Towards Employ­ment will con­tin­ue to mon­i­tor health guide­lines and data to assess the safe­ty of work environments.

Find­ing new opportunities

When restau­rants and stores closed at the Seat­tle-Taco­ma Inter­na­tion­al Air­port, many young peo­ple lost their jobs. This prompt­ed Gen­er­a­tion Work part­ner Port Jobs — which con­nects peo­ple with employ­ment and train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties at the air­port — to help its young par­tic­i­pants move into freight and logis­tics-relat­ed work, such as ware­house and deliv­ery jobs, that were still open. Toward the end of March, Port Jobs also began con­nect­ing with local employ­ers, includ­ing Ama­zon and local gro­cery stores, to ensure young par­tic­i­pants con­tin­ued working.

Offer­ing remote opportunities

Start­ing in mid-July, Youth­Works, Baltimore’s five-week sum­mer jobs pro­gram for youth, will work with employ­ers to pro­vide rough­ly 4,500 young peo­ple in the city with online employ­ment as well as edu­ca­tion­al and work-readi­ness activ­i­ties, includ­ing resume build­ing. Par­tic­i­pants will work for four hours a day, five days a week and are able to earn up to $1,100. They’ll also receive job coach­ing and tech­ni­cal sup­port to ensure they can work and learn remotely.

Learn what young Bal­ti­more­ans say they want from their city’s work­force system

Learn more about the five Gen­er­a­tion Work partnerships

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