By Whitney Allen
In a world where the job market is ever-evolving, the need for innovative workforce solutions has never been greater. CareerWise aims to position youth apprenticeship as one such solution, but breaking through in such a dynamic environment requires continuous innovation. CareerWise’s national team foments program implementers’ creativity in part by facilitating regular cross-community “peer group” convenings, in which frontline staff share ideas,strategies and challenges. Staff who recruit businesses to hire and train youth apprentices from Denver, Elkhart County and Indianapolis, Ind., Buffalo, NY, New York City, and Washington D.C. take part in these meetings to help create a movement that promises to reshape the future of education and employment.
At the core of this movement is the belief that young people possess untapped skills and can be trained and mentored into skilled, loyal, motivated employees as part of an employer’s long-term talent pipeline strategy. CareerWise provides the frameworks, staff, tools and resources to recruit high school talent for employers.
Here are Five Strategies for Engaging Employers
1. Current apprentices are the best advocates
Community partners agreed that leveraging current apprentices is the most effective way to market youth apprenticeship to potential employers (and potential apprentices). Apprentices who articulate how youth apprenticeship has changed their lives and highlight the real life projects they are contributing to definitely inspire potential employers to consider incorporating the program into their talent pipeline strategy.
2. Apprentice supervisors are key
While apprentices can infuse a department with new energy, fast-paced learning and productivity, current partners know that supervisors of youth apprentices are key to apprentice success and also gain valuable mentoring and leadership skills in the process.
“Supervisors are the secret sauce of successful youth apprenticeship,” said a business partner who has seen firsthand how supervisors grow alongside their youth apprentices. “We need to include them in the early decision making, buy-in, and implementation. Once they understand how YA works, they will be our biggest champions for helping to recruit other supervisors.”
3. Bust youth employment myths
Touchpoints with potential employers can be facilitated through a wide variety of approaches. An Indiana business partner presented a webinar called “Myth Busting around Hiring Minors” as one way to introduce youth apprenticeship programs to potential employers and to shatter preconceived assumptions about perceived barriers to hiring youth. Many occupations are completely appropriate, legal and safe for high school youth to begin learning about and contributing to via their work teams. The US Department of Labor has a number of resources to share with employers on this topic (e.g., Child Labor Fact Sheet, Youth Rules Brochure).
4. Use “drip marketing” tactics to stay on employers’ radar
One partner in Colorado uses marketing to engage interested employers. By consistently providing potential employers with biweekly tidbits, success stories, and hard-hitting data on youth apprenticeship outcomes, this “drip marketing” reminds employers about the return on investment employers can make by developing their own talent from within. Business partners’ continuous contact with employers is increasing employer commitment to youth apprenticeship.
Another partner from Buffalo echoes the sentiment that nurturing seeds over time is the key to gaining employers’ commitment.
“Planting seeds and watering them constantly over time,” said the Buffalo partner. “That’s what is getting us across the finish line with employers.”
Sometimes it takes up to five touch points between CareerWise and a potential employer, but this persistence—combined with the other strategies noted here—helps shine a light on the power youth apprentices can have within a company.
5. Meet businesses where they are
Other approaches to entice employers to consider youth apprenticeship include attending industry-related association meetings, hosting golf tournaments for specific businesses, targeting school district events, hosting sector partnership convenings and hosting Lunch-and-Learns about successful youth apprenticeship in targeted industries. Focusing on businesses by sector or industry can catalyze the discussion, around hiring youth to solve employers’ hiring needs, in a more system-wide approach rather than pursuing one-business-at-a-time which helps both CareerWise and industry partners co-create solutions together more efficiently.
The most important step in recruiting employers is showcasing the transformative power that hiring youth can have on supervisors, departments, corporate culture and the employers’ bottom line.
CareerWise partners elevated these five business recruitment strategies in our most recent peer-to-peer group. As a youth apprenticeship movement, we must continue to experiment, engage, and support businesses as they explore new ways to grow and diversify their own talent and embrace youth apprenticeship as a critical talent strategy.