Before the pandemic, 1 in 9 youth were considered disconnected, meaning not in school and without a job. Now, that number is 1 in 4. This disconnection can have ramifications on the life and career these youth will lead 60 years down the line. For employers who want to rebuild, hire and retain diversity, and innovate into the future, this is their issue. This is their future talent pipeline. Youth Jobs Connect is a new tech nonprofit that connects the youth employment ecosystem and offers tangible actions to include youth in the workforce and our national economic recovery.
Young people ages 14-24, especially QTBIPOC youth, suffered the most during the pandemic: their jobs were the first to go, and their communities the first to be impacted. They are consistently hit the hardest in an economic downturn.
As a result, young people across the country have a shaken trust in the workforce and the trajectory of their own lives. Overtime, this distrust and disempowerment appears as lower work performance, higher turnover rates, unstable and inequitable culture and lower returns. Change within companies is directed at fixing the side effects instead of building from a place of innovation and inclusion.
When we talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, we’re talking about the building and repairing of trust. Trust is foundational to the employer-employee experience.
To truly include youth, we must first look at our core beliefs concerning youth in the workplace. If we continue to believe that youth don’t have enough experience to be in the workplace, they’ll never get experience. If we think that youth in low-wage jobs are inherently low-skilled, they aren’t given credit for their inherent value and work ethic in an inherently unequal system. These beliefs simply aren’t based on factual evidence, and instead are rooted in bias.
We need to believe all young people deserve the opportunity for meaningful employment and access to jobs, training, resources, support services and mentors to build a better future. We can view youth as innovative and resilient with a voice that deserves to be heard. We can choose to see that we have the resources to solve youth disconnection, we just need to allocate them.
If trust is the currency of progress, we have to build the foundation of trust early. That means starting at the entrance, with the first job: youth ages 14-24. The only way to build trust is to do the work together. Our goal at Youth Jobs Connect is to connect 50K youth to jobs this summer and help drive the creation of 250,000 new hybrid & virtual opportunities by 2022 .
Here are 5 ways that employers can begin to create a culture that includes and values youth:
1. HIRE YOUTH: Youth ages 14-24 apply to Summer Youth Employment Programs in the millions, and millions are turned away because there aren’t enough employers willing to hire youth. There is no re-route for these youth—they are left to find employment and financial security on their own, oftentimes to support their own families. If more companies commit to offering learn and earn opportunities, they will be investing in their own future workforce. Showing youth that they are valuable individuals in the workplace can instill early interest and passion in your industry/business, and show youth that they have a place there.
HOW: Learn what it could look like to hire youth and how that could be beneficial for all involved. Work with organizations that are developing the talent pipeline like: YJC, Grads of Life, Hire Opportunity Coalition.
2. MENTOR YOUTH: One of the key factors in whether a youth can see what’s possible for them is if they personally know someone working in a role that interests them. Youth will feel safer in an organization with people they identify with and can see themselves in their roles. Mentors from your organization can help illuminate possible steps for youth to take, giving them choice. They can humanize their journey and demystify the intimidating and daunting nature of finding and sustaining work.
3. PHILANTHROPY: Youth employment programs are operating under capacity… under resourced, underfunded and under supported. When you invest into local, regional and national youth development programs – you have a stake in the success of your future pipeline.
HOW: Who to support and how to connect with local providers can be a job in itself. Youth Jobs Connect can help you connect to a local or regional program that matches your company’s values and mission. We have scouted programs across the country and can help you create a positive youth jobs experience with the right partner.
4. SHARE WITH OTHERS: Many people are unaware of how critical youth employment is for our country, just as there are many organizations who are doing the hard work of preparing and innovating for youth. When you engage in the conversation and are willing to learn from other youth-centered organizations, you set a precedent that others will follow. If big businesses show that youth are just as important as everyone else, other businesses will follow suit.
HOW: The youth workforce ecosystem needs help amplifying their work, solutions and the demands of today’s young people. Check out CLASP’s New Deal for Youth and the monthly Youth Action Hour series and boost their efforts.
5. CREATE A YOUTH ADVISORY COUNCIL: The biggest way to show youth that their voice matters is to invite them to the table, and pay them for sharing their expertise and perspective. If innovation is at the forefront of your company, hire youth advisors. They are the now and the next, and everything we do impacts them and their future. They deserve a say in it and can help your business connect to the people who will be running it next.
HOW: Student Voice is an amazing nonprofit led by young people who can guide you in creating a youth advisory council. It’s just like any other council or board…except cooler.
These steps towards inclusion are only the first on a long stairway towards creating a safe culture for youth, or for any marginalized community. Building trust can begin early—begins today—and relies on collaboration. Join us to connect 50,000 youth to jobs this summer and invest in our collective future. Visit youthxjobs.com to learn how. #YouthJobsNow