The Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed in July, equips Workforce Investment Boards with the resources to help youth and young adults who need it the most. The new legislation requires local workforce areas to spend at least 75% of funds on serving disconnected youth (ages 14-24), unlike the 30% required in previous years. The law also expands the age limit to 24 (previously 21).
The WIOA places a greater emphasis on working with youth who are out of school and out of work, including adjudicated youth, and youth transitioning out of foster care. The allocation of new resources for these youth is a major policy and programmatic shift that, spent wisely, could impact individual youth and families as well as whole communities in profound ways.
In 2004, the U.S. General Accounting Office reported that about 70% of youth served by the workforce system were attending school. The GAO report specifically noted the need for more guidance and technical assistance to local areas challenged by the need to serve the remaining 30% who were out-of-school.
Experiences gleaned from youth workforce development programs indicate significant challenges to outreach, recruitment, engagement, and retention in programs and services of youth who are not attending school and are not in the workforce. The sad reality is that many of our youth development and youth workforce programs struggle to get youth in the doors. Of the millions of youth who desperately need education and workforce development in their lives, few are turning to the programs and services that can lead to better lives and opportunities. Those that do come often don’t stay. In this fact lies our advocacy paradox.
Historically, WIB’s faced challenges reaching (and therefore serving) the 30% of its constituents who were out-of-school youth. How can it reach the mandate in the new WIOA that of the youth being served, 75% must be out-of-school or work? YAP’s answer: Don’t wait for youth to come to us. Let’s go to them.
The power of the YAP Workforce Model is twofold:
- Youth Advocates: Reaching and Engaging Youth in their Home Communities The Youth Advocate, a paid community-based workplace readiness coach, trained and supported by YAP in delivery of YAP’s Future Economic Opportunity model, works and engages the youth, employers, social service organizations in the community where they live. Youth Advocates are recruited from the same zip code area where the youth and family reside and provide 8 to 30 hours per week (including weekends) of culturally competent workforce education and life skills support to youth on a one to one basis or in a classroom setting when appropriate.
- YAPWorks: The foundation for long-term labor market success As we prepare youth to achieve goals associated with workforce achievement, we engage them in the process. As a result, learning becomes relevant, interesting and meaningful. YAP’s asset based model believes in a youth development approach to workforce readiness: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
Consequently, YAPWoRKS is based on the use of targeted youth paid learning activities designed to help youth learn about key workforce skills, concepts, opportunities, and resources. We realize that for various reasons, many youth, especially black and brown youth, are excluded from working in the local labor market. Where appropriate, youth can participate in the Supported Work component of the YAP Model, a form of subsidized work experiences that provides a safe environment for youth to learn new skills and practice new behaviors. Supported Work also impacts the entire community because youth must share lessons learned with their immediate influence circle.
YAPWoRKs paid learning activities focus on:
- Increasing access to, understanding of, and use of labor market information.
- Improving knowledge of educational and employment opportunities and resources.
- Building connections to gainfully employed networks and employers.
- Increasing youth’s job readiness and employability skills.
Upon completion of YAPWoRKs, youth connect to long term labor market engagement through one of the following services:
- Supported work
- Part-Time/Full-Time Employment
- Job Shadowing
- Workforce Training
For the first time, WIOA is focusing “workforce development,” principles on youth and young people most in need. Because YAP’s specialty is working with youth at the highest risk of out-of-home placement and those youth with the most complex needs, YAP is well positioned to help WIB’s meet youth where they are and help them access the services WIB’s provide and youth need. YAP is ready to deliver unique programming that meets the national objectives codified into the WIOA. We have decades of experience working in under-served areas, demonstrated our ability to engage at-risk youth and their families and the date to support the success of our approach. By expanding our workforce development program to the highest need youth, we can help WIB’s deliver significant percentage of workforce resources to youth who need it most.