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Placement continues to be a critical factor for YouthBuild programs and an area of ongoing challenge.  The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act has provided an opportunity for YouthBuild programs to strengthen placement by formalizing partnerships between YouthBuild programs and American Job Centers, which provide greater access to employer networks and other post-secondary partners that will be beneficial for stronger placement outcomes.  To capitalize on this requirement, the 2016 and 2017 YouthBuild Funding Opportunity Announcements required a key placement staff role for the grant.  But whether this position is required or not, the Toolkit highlighted below provides smart strategies for creating a placement staffing framework from the first day of the grant to the last. ~ Jenn Smith, National YouthBuild Director, U.S. Department of Labor

Building Placement Success on a Sound Foundation of Staffing and Partnerships

As YouthBuild programs are placing a greater emphasis on placement and retention, the DOL YouthBuild TA Collaborative continues to support this need by providing resources designed to strengthen placement practices.  The following resource will help you make the most of the required job developer position, and begin to lay the groundwork for understanding the work that must be accomplished in supporting participants and partnering with employers/post-secondary institutions for successful post-program placements.

Often, placement work seems to begin at the end of active programming because there are so many challenges staff are trying to meet with their participants: trauma care and counseling; low academic levels in reading and math; unstable housing; and attendance and retention, to name a few. But if we only focus on what we perceive to be the immediate needs of youth, then participants won’t be given the connections to post-exit supports and pathways that are ultimately necessary for them to become productive, self-sustaining adults.  This post-exit planning is as critical to their future as getting the right case management, counseling, and academic support.  But this work needs to start from day one as the partnerships and pathways necessary to connect every youth are diverse and complicated.  It’s as important that the YouthBuild program have personal connections to these opportunities as it is for the youth.  In developing the DOL
YouthBuild Staffing for Placement Toolkit, the goal was to assist programs with thinking about how to design their staffing for the full 40-month period of grant performance toward the goal of successful placement outcomes for youth participants.

Perhaps most important to placement success is strong staffing and partnerships. Strong staffing is now a central focus at DOL YouthBuild programs with a required Job Developer/Placement Specialist position as part of the required grant staff.  The Job Developer/Placement Specialist should be the driving force for placement and retention, a role that performs essential tasks and duties for dual constituents:
  1. YouthBuild participants, both during active program participation and in transition for exit and follow-up.

  2. Employers and post-secondary education institutions who want strong candidates for their businesses, and advanced education and training programs. 

Specifically, the Job Developer/Placement Specialist’s particular scope of work for serving both of his/her target audiences is:
  • To network with private and public sector employers and businesses to develop career-building internships, placements, and retention in placements for YouthBuild participants. This includes building out long-term employment placement relationships in in-demand first jobs and career pathway employment that satisfies employer/employee needs. 

  • To create, compile, and implement first employment and pre-apprenticeship career curricula, including hands-on practice and experience relevant to specific career pathways, and to teach, train, and/or supervise an approved program partner to provide YouthBuild participants employment content and skills. 

Just as the Job Developer/Placement Specialist wants the participants to be ready, he/she must also prepare employers and post-secondary education partners to take an active interest in the YouthBuild participants and see them as an integral part of the immediate and future workforce.  A great example of this is YouthBuild North Shore’s (Salem, MA) “Try Before You Hire” initiative, which utilizes a flyer to market program participants to potential employers (Click here to access flyer).

While YouthBuild participants and graduates get the chance to gain hands-on work experience, the employer gets to see the participants in action and how they respond to the work experience over a set length of time. In addition, the YouthBuild program gets an employer partner who is invested in their program’s growth and success and interested in hiring youth after exit.  If managed well, this initiative is a win for the participants, the employer partner, and the YouthBuild program.

The parent organization invests in a central staff member to drive placement, who in turn develops strong employer and post-secondary connections, and in turn, these employers invest in the youth. The
YouthBuild Staffing for Placement Toolkit is a great resource to initiate this process and offers strategies to create, build, and refine your placement component.  In the toolkit, you will find the following:

Section 1 - Strengthen Job Developer/Placement Specialist Position(s) in a DOL YouthBuild Program Tools: 

  • Job Developer/Placement Specialist scope of work or job description template
  • Narrative Guide for key responsibilities during different phases of the YouthBuild grant
  • Visual map of the interlocking aspects of the Job Developer/Placement Specialist(s) work and 
how and when they interface with youth participants and external placement partners 

Section 2 - YouthBuild Program and American Job Center Partnership for Placement:
  • This section of the toolkit builds out from the core Job Developer/Placement Specialist staffing to establishing partnerships with American Job Centers, as required. The strategies were gathered from DOL YouthBuild program staff.
Section 3 - Continuous Quality Improvement: Assessing Employer Satisfaction:
  • This section provides suggestions and an adaptable sample employer satisfaction survey that has been designed for use by a YouthBuild site to support a committed, active, work-based learning and/or placement relationship with employer partners.
Section 4 - Placement-Related Resources Available Through WorkforceGPS:
  • This section offers a collection of resources for planning, establishing, and growing employer partnerships. Resources such as e-Learning series, manuals, templates, and more are hyperlinked to the Department of Labor’s WorkforceGPS portal.
In addition to the YouthBuild Staffing for Placement Toolkit, there are previously developed resources that are beneficial to strengthening placement outcomes:
Be sure to catch the archive of the DOL YouthBuild Webinar held on Tuesday, February 7th: Supporting Placement through Staffing and Partnerships. The webinar provided an overview of the YouthBuild Staffing for Placement Toolkit and included peer sharing from two established YouthBuild programs’ job developer staffing models and strategies for creating partnerships with employers and post-secondary institutions.

We will be continuing to develop additional resources for the YouthBuild Staffing for Placement Toolkit so if you have any successful and/or best practice resources, please let us know.  The best resources and strategies are those that have been tested and proven in the field!

Other Resources

Department of Education Employability Skills Framework – The Department of Education developed an Employability Skills Framework that provides a method of assessing work readiness related to key soft skills employers desire.  This framework includes a checklist of applied knowledge components.  There are many tools that have been developed in this area, including from industry associations, apprenticeship sponsors and individual employers.  Using this or a similar employability skills assessment tool can create a greater value-add when developing placement partnerships and helps to ensure that the youth being placed are ready to be successful in the work environment.

Additional Resources and Information

Apprenticeship Partnership Models in Action - Partnerships are an integral component of successful and strategically sustainable apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship Partnership Models in Action illustrates three distinct models of partners performing leadership roles in successful apprenticeship programs, including Harper College, Illinois; Washington Technology Industry Association, Washington; and Valley to Virginia Initiative, Virginia.

Training and Employment Guidance Letter 26-16, “Guidance on the use of Supplemental Wage Information to implement the Performance Accountability Requirements under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act,” was released in June of 2017 and includes very important information for 2016 and 2017 grantees now reporting on the Median Earnings indicator in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.  This TEGL provides guidance on the allowable sources of documentation and verification for supplemental wage data (meaning data not provided through Unemployment Insurance data matching). 

Mythbuster! WIOA Titles I and II – A primary goal of WIOA is to bring together, in strategic coordination, the core programs of Federal investment in skill development.  WIOA encourages further alignment and leveraging, as appropriate, between the Title I Youth program and the Title II Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) program.  The attached document addresses common myths about the barriers to partnering between the Title I Youth Program and the Title II AEFLA program and the benefits of doing so.

Youth Desk Reference: Serving Youth in an Integrated American Job Center Network - There are a number of one-stop partner programs that may be appropriate for youth depending upon an individual’s needs and whether or not they meet eligibility criteria for specific programs. WIOA’s focus on a customer-centered service delivery approach should assist with determination of the best programming and services to serve an individual youth’s needs. This desk reference provides an overview of potential one-stop partner programs that may be appropriate for youth.

Upcoming Events

America Saves Week 2018

Mark your calendars for America Saves Week 2018, February 26-March 3. And if you haven't already, be sure to register as an America Saves Week 2018 participant to get the latest news and resources as they're released. 

America Saves Week brings together diverse nonprofit, government, academic, and business groups to encourage and support Americans to save effectively. Participating organizations are provided with useful savings tools and resources ranging from engaging contests, to social media posts and graphics, to sample presentations and activities. Each day of America Saves Week includes a different theme:
Monday, February 26: Save with a plan
Tuesday, February 27: Save the easy way…automatically
  • It can be hard to put aside money for savings, but there is an easy way to save money without ever missing it by making your savings automatic in 2018. Already saving automatically? Find ways to automate other aspects of your financial life this year.
Wednesday, February 28: Save for rainy days
  • A rainy day fund consists of a small amount of money in a savings account separate from your checking that you do not have easy access to. Saving for this fund starts with small, regularly scheduled contributions that build up over time.
Thursday, March 1: Save to retire
  • Saving now for retirement will ensure you have enough money to have a comfortable standard of living when you stop working or reduce the amount of hours you work. Participate in a work-related retirement program such as a 401(k) or open an Individual Retirement Account (or IRA). Already saving for retirement? We recommend increasing the amount you save toward retirement by 1 percent.
Friday, March 2: Save the extra
  • We’re more likely to save a windfall than a small amount consistently over a long period of time. Hack that psychology by saving your bonuses, raises, and tax refunds. This tax season, get ahead of your financial goals by saving at least $50, and reward yourself SaveYourRefund by entering to win one of over 100 prizes up to $10,000.
Saturday, March 3: Save as a family
  • Good savings habits start at home. Whether you’re budgeting, saving, making retirement decisions, or assessing workplace benefits, share the choices you make with your children, no matter their age.
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