Learn more about JFF
Learn more about JFF

Recruiting and Engaging Opportunity Youth

A key premise of youth apprenticeship is that it exposes young people to the connections between learning, skill building, and careers early in their lives, and that the insights they gain from that exposure help form (or renew) a basis for educational engagement. And, of course, youth apprenticeship offers another very important benefit: pay. Apprentices earn money while they learn new skills. That fact alone makes youth apprenticeship programs highly attractive to young people, including opportunity youth.

But that doesn’t mean that recruitment into those programs and retention in them take care of themselves: young people generally, and opportunity youth, are often unaware of programs they might qualify for. And because youth apprenticeship is still rare, they are not likely to hear about such opportunities from their most trusted sources of information: their peers, their parents, and their schools. Furthermore, when young people do express interest in training programs, the opportunities might not be available because enrollment is limited or because they need some type of preliminary support or assistance—a skills preparation workshop, perhaps, or help with scheduling, securing the necessary equipment, or arranging transportation. And while apprenticeship has built-in mechanisms (beyond the opportunity to earn money) that help keep participants engaged, some young people—opportunity youth in particular—will need additional support to reengage with school or work. Recognizing that there are a variety of factors that can make it difficult for young people to succeed in apprenticeships, organizations seeking to preserve their relationships with employers may be overly cautious about enrolling opportunity youth in their programs.

AEMF programs have developed a range of strategies, including the two that follow, to connect with and engage even hard-to-reach opportunity youth. Their tactics include using social media and other communications channels to reach out to young people. An ancillary yet essential component of this work is managing partner and stakeholder expectations so that they understand what working with opportunity youth will entail. Click below to read more about these strategies and see how they look in action.




Guiding Questions

How does your program identify and recruit opportunity youth?

  • Directly, through partner networks, or both? How could these approaches be improved to ensure that no young people fall through the cracks?
  • What is your social media strategy? Who owns it? When was the last time it was updated? Is it mobile-first? Multilingual?

Does your organization collaborate with other groups that provide services to young people when trying to identify their needs and revise recruiting strategies to reflect changes in those needs?

  • What organizations (faith-based groups, food banks, etc.) stepped up during the pandemic in ways that might make them good outreach partners for your program?

  • Are there any new community events or activities (such as organized recreation or sports meetups in public parks) that emerged during the pandemic that might provide venues for connecting with opportunity youth in a community setting?

  • What kind of information-gathering efforts (such as surveys or regional youth summits) have emerged that could provide data that strengthens your outreach and programming efforts?

  • Do you engage current participants in your opportunity youth programs in efforts to design or implement engagement efforts? If so, how?

  • What alternative schools and high school equivalency programs in your region have shown success in recruiting and education young adults without a high school credential and might serve as a springboard for an apprenticeship pathway?