Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.
A significant way that opportunity youth can be engaged in their communities is through the workforce. Engagement in the workforce, including apprenticeships, not only benefits the youth individually but also their community. Youth disconnect from the workforce is a complex issue, however there are several practical strategies that can be taken to support opportunity youth:
- Listen to youth. Opportunity youth are the experts on their own experiences. Therefore, it is important that they are engaged in the process of working towards reconnection. For example, a program, Leaders-Up, hosted an opportunity youth-led conference that yielded the need to develop trust and transparency between youth and potential employers. Youth voices on this topic can be found on Youth Engaged 4 Change.
- Provide training. For many opportunity youth, employment is a new experience. It is important that appropriate training be available to address issues throughout the process of applying for and maintaining employment.
- Work collaboratively to create and maintain supportive policies and opportunities. For employers and programs it is important that they work together to create opportunities for youth to engage with the workforce. Additionally, data collection and evaluation across agencies and employers can be vital to maintaining support.
- Develop careers, not jobs. Helping opportunity youth discover career pathways and preparing them for meaningful, lucrative careers is crucial to long-term success for that individual and potentially future generations of their family and community. For example, the WIOA Youth Formal Program focuses primarily on out-of-school youth and includes 14 program elements that are required to be made available to youth participants.
- Address practical barriers. These could include transportation costs, providing access to technology so they can participate in virtual opportunities, making sure they have an interview and work appropriate outfit(s), providing meals, printing hard copies of their resume, and setting up job fairs so that youth can conveniently explore work options in one place.
Strategic Use of Resources, Funding, and Partnerships to Support Disconnected Youth
This case study describes how federally-funded technical assistance helped the Children's Services Council (CSC) parlay lessons learned from past programs serving disconnected youth into a more expansive effort to align funding for this population across all county systems and services. This case study describes how the CSC in South Florida did just this, leveraging and pooling multiple funding streams to maximize impact for disconnected youth.
Supportive services, one of the 14 program elements for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) youth program, are services that enable an individual to participate in WIOA activities. These services enable an individual to participate in WIOA activities (such as, but not limited to, assistance with transportation, child care, housing, health care, educational testing, and work-related tools). Access Part 1 here. Access Part 2 here.
WIOA Youth Program Fact Sheet (July 2020)
This factsheet provides information on the Youth Program of WIOA.
How to be an Opportunity Employer
This webpage from Grads of Life provides employers helpful information on employer principles for working with opportunity youth.
This document from Grads of Life outlines the six principles of Opportunity Employment and their associated talent practices.
This is a collection of resources related to youth employment from the U.S. Department of Labor. These resources include information and programs designed to help youth gain and maintain connections with the workforce, and successfully make the transition to adulthood and careers.
Education and Career Toolkit
This toolkit from engage.youth.gov is a collection of resources focused on education and careers. These resources are from reputable organizations, offered free of charge, and tailored to a youth audience. The resources are also grouped by theme to make it easier for youth to find what they need in as few clicks as possible.
Get My Future
Get My Future is a mobile-friendly web application that helps youth plan their careers, explore education and training options, and search and apply for jobs.
This initiative, supported by the U.S. Department of Education, includes interactive resources with helpful information for educators, trainers, employers, and policymakers on how to support opportunity youth to be successful in their first job. This information is also provided in a fact sheet (PDF, 1 page).
Opportunity Youth Playbook
This guide from the Forum for Youth Investment works to help boys and young men of color, who are disproportionately represented among opportunity youth, to reconnect with education and/or employment.
Two Futures: The Economic Case for Keeping Youth on Track (PDF, 25 pages)
This publication details the issues surrounding employment of youth. The document is based off a longitudinal research study that investigated the economic differences in youth that stay “on track” and those who do not.
Resources for Youth Employment Programs
This website from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides resources for youth, and those who work with them, that can help work towards building a solid foundation for their financial futures. Resources regarding information about policies and best financial practices as well as educational aids to develop financial skills and knowledge can be found on this site.
Bridge to Reconnection (PDF, 28 pages)
Produced by Civic Enterprises, this report offers comprehensive data and a roadmap for reconnecting one million opportunity youth each year through federal funding streams. It outlines the federally funded pathways through the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Defense that currently reconnect approximately 360,000 young people each year and could scale up to engage more young people.
Other Resources on this Topic
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