Learn more about JFF
Learn more about JFF

Employer Engagement

Employers are essential partners in efforts to provide apprenticeship programs for opportunity youth. However, it can be a challenge to get employers to the starting line of such an initiative, especially in industries where the apprenticeship model itself is new and relatively untested. For practitioners looking to place opportunity youth in apprenticeship programs, the challenge is twofold: convincing employers to build apprenticeships or modify existing training programs and helping them see the value of bringing in members of a demographic group they may not have previously recruited into the workplace.

Employer hesitance often centers around factors such as these:

  • The cost of developing an apprenticeship program
  • The time it takes for apprentices to become journey workers
  • The resources required to provide apprentices with mentors and hands-on training
  • The safety and liability considerations that come into play in connection with any activity that brings young people into the workplace
  • The potential impact on the quality of an organization’s work and, in turn, its overall reputation—some employers question whether young people who are not in school or working can produce work that meets their standards

These issues can be of particular concern for small employers and those in rural locations because the opportunity costs of running apprenticeships for young people can be higher for them than they might be for other employers.

To address these concerns, programs across the country have developed a range of strategies, including the three listed here, to bring employers on board with developing Registered Apprenticeship programs and hiring opportunity youth in their apprentice cohorts. Click below to read more about these strategies and see how they look in action.




Guiding Questions

What kinds of labor market information can help you identify industries, sectors, and employers that might benefit from apprenticeship programs for opportunity youth? Here are some examples to consider:

  • Industry and occupational data from federal, state, and local government sources or private providers (such as Emsi)
  • Industry trend information, workforce analysis, and economic forecasts from research and policy organizations or industry associations
  • Data about hiring
  • Data about the demand for skills and, in turn, data about skills gaps and shortages
  • Qualitative information about labor market needs (from discussions with employers, students, workers, and young people and adults who are disconnected from the labor market)

What factors would you take into account when trying to identify sectors, occupations, or employers that are well suited to opportunity youth apprenticeship? Here are some examples to consider:

  • Labor market needs
  • Wage and advancement opportunities
  • Approach to worker training and investments
  • Demographics of existing workers
  • History of collaboration with industry peers and public-sector and nonprofit partners
  • Prior experience with youth apprenticeship or other work-based learning programs for young people
  • Inclusion in lists of noteworthy employers that appear in local media or trade publications (for example, lists of socially responsible businesses or of the best places to work in a particular region or industry)

What problem(s) does apprenticeship solve for target employers?

How does apprenticeship complement existing talent development efforts?

What opportunities exist for engaging target employers in the overall opportunity youth apprenticeship effort?

What roles could these employers play? Here are some examples to consider:

  • Champions of apprenticeship
  • Sponsors or hosts of programs
  • Donors or supporters in some other capacity

How might you take advantage of existing statewide, regional, or industry-based apprenticeship expansion efforts to support your own employer engagement efforts, or to connect opportunity youth to apprenticeship?