Introduction to Government Run Youth Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are structured training programs that give youth a chance to work towards a career-related qualification and are a great pathway to a higher-paid, skilled job. Apprenticeships help students gain the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a chosen industry. Youth apprenticeships prepare high school students with a combination of classroom instruction and paid on-the-job training. These apprenticeships are usually a partnership between state or local government, the local school system, and employers in the local community.

Apprenticeships offer significant advantages for youth:

  • Immersion — Entry-level workers have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the work environment for which they are preparing.
  • Academic Credit — Some apprenticeships may have direct agreements with post-secondary institutions, such as community colleges, for academic credit.
  • Cash — An apprenticeship is also paid employment. Therefore, students who need to earn a wage while learning can greatly benefit from this approach.

What Are Some of the Challenges of Youth Apprenticeships?

There are a few challenges associated with apprenticeship programs. They can be difficult to set up and may involve bureaucratic work; building a program might take years and will require strong partnerships. Industries do not always see the benefits of a youth specific apprenticeship, choosing instead to focus on adults with established work histories. Some industries, such as construction, have very volatile ebbs and flows that can make steady employment more difficult. Finally, most apprenticeships are not geared towards workers with limited English proficiency.  Advocating for refugee clients who may wish to access apprenticeships and utilizing youth programs like Job Corps, which includes on-site training and education may help to combat these challenges.

With today’s vibrant and competitive workforce, greater levels of preparation are required for young people to successfully access opportunities that pay living wages and withstand the pressures inherent in our economy. Apprenticeships may offer one solution to this challenge.

For more information on youth apprenticeships or apprenticeships in general follow:

Youth with Disabilities Entering the Workplace through Apprenticeship, Career Begins with Assessment, and the U.S. Department of Labor website for apprenticeship.

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Workforce Collaboration Case Study: Ready for Retail Training for Refugee Youth

Photo Credit: ACC-DEN

Photo Credit: ACC-DEN

ECDC’s African Community Center of Denver, CO (ACC) shares what they have learned through a very successful training program for refugee youth that partners with two American Job Centers, funds ACC’s retail customer service training program and builds workplace skills for refugee youth.

Read the case study online or download a PDF version if you prefer. You will learn

  • how and why ACC began partnering with mainstream workforce centers;
  • how to register as an Eligible Training Provider to gain eligibility to receive WIOA training funds for participant training;
  • how ACC’s Ready for Retail training program developed over time and what participants say about how they benefitted; and
  • some of the lessons ACC learned that you can replicate in your own efforts.
About Higher’s Workforce Collaboration Case Study Series

This case study, written by Higher Peer Advisor Carrie Thiele, ACC Training Program Manager, is the first of five that Higher will make available over the coming months to help us all learn from each other about successful strategies for strengthening our collaboration with the mainstream workforce system so that refugees can better access workforce services provided across the country for all U.S. job seekers.

If you are collaborating with the workforce system in your community and want to share what you’re learning with peers across the country, get in touch at


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Two WIOA Opportunities Available NOW


Graphic Credit:

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunites Act (WIOA) doesn’t go into full effect until July 2015, but it is already creating tangible new opportunities for refugee clients and agencies serving them.

Read below for new detail about a shifted focus in youth programming and a 5 year funding opportunity for healthcare career training.

Click here for additional background information about WIOA in case you missed previous Higher blog posts and a webinar.

Youth Programming:  Significant Shift in Focus to Older Youth

WIOA shifts the primary program focus of Title I youth formula programs to support the educational and career success of out-of-school youth (OSY), ages 16 to 24. A minimum of 75 percent of WIOA youth funds must be spent on OSY, an increase from the minimum of 30 percent under the former Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

With an estimated 6 million 16-24 year olds in this country not employed or not in school, WIOA youth programs will provide a needed continuum of services to help disconnected youth navigate between the educational and workforce systems.

Click here to read the entire Guidance Letter from the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (DOL-ETA) with clarification and detail about this important new emphasis in WIOA.

These two points included in a list of the possible types of clients speak directly to refugee client eligibility:

  • eligibility is based on age at enrollment, participants may continue to receive services beyond the age of 24 once they are enrolled in the program
  • …an individual [that]…is either basic skills deficient or an English language learner

The letter strongly encourages the mainstream workforce system to begin adjusting programming NOW and begin to identify sources of this newly emphasized population. Many refugees fall into this category.

How You and our Clients Can Benefit:  There are opportunities for us to offer assistance so that refugees can be considered in the planning phase.
“NOW” includes Summer Youth Employment Programs that are likely already advertising for applicants.

Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG)

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Family Assistance (OFA) is announcing a large funding opportunity supporting education and traning for occupations in the health care field,…that could also fund child care, case management and other supportive services, as appropriate.

The primary recipients of a previous round of funding (see page 2 of the announcement) were mostly mainstream workforce stakeholders and community colleges.  A possible role for resettlement agencies is outined in the announcement as follows on page 7 of the announcement:

HPOG programs can also include other partners that provide resources or expertise to better coordinate services and improve outcomes for program participants, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, legal aid, and especially services funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), such as Head Start, child care, domestic violence prevention, and refugee resettlement programs.

Download the full application here and visit the Office of Family Assistance/HPOG website for more details.

How You and our Clients Can Benefit:  This could be a great opportunity to build on existing relationships with workforce offices or begin establishing working relationships now.


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Four Things We Learned in Florida


4. Florida beaches are inspiring in winter, too.

Challenging Change, the Biennial Florida State Refugee Consultation was a whirlwind of presenting about employment, promoting Higher resources and learning from peers and presenters.

Meaningful inclusion of refugee voices in panel presentations, dance performances and informal networking between sessions inspired everyone. Click here if you missed reading more about the employer partnership and training program that put more than 50 refugees to work at the Hyatt conference venue.

Reflecting the diversity of Florida and the event, here are four more things we learned that continue to resonate after a couple of weeks have passed:

1.  25% of refugee-eligible populations are resettled in Florida. (And their 180 day self sufficiency rate is 84%, 6% above the national average.)

2. Standardized tests are a barrier to high school graduation for older refugee youthClick here to learn how this affects one of many refugee panelists whose voice was included in a meaningful way at the conference.

3.  Swimming pool resurfacing is a thing and can offer job skills training and employmentLSS Northeast Florida shared this new employer lead that has resulted in several refugees promoted to supervisor and a committed employer hiring diverse client populations into a supportive workplace.



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Impact of an Aging U.S. Workforce


Correcting common misconceptions about hiring older workers. Source: SHRM Foundation

Possible Benefits for Both Older and Younger Refugee Clients

It’s difficult to address the additional barriers faced by older refugees, who often look older than their actual age.  Useful new research about the aging U.S. workforce offers information that could help us better serve the younger AND older workers on our case loads.

First, consider these two facts included in a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation.

  • Between 2012-2022, there will be a 74% change in workforce participation among workers age 65+.
  • Both workers and employers define “older” as beginning at 50 years of age.
Better Incentives and Accomodation of Older Workers

As employers increase recognition of the importance of an older workforce, they will offer more incentives like flexible hours, enhanced visibility and tech training that could help our clients, too.  Stronger employer recognition of the value of older workers will be an advantage, as well.

Download  The Aging Workforce: Leveraging the Talents of Mature Employees, from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) Foundation’s Effective Practice Guidelines Series.  It highlights a number of employer best practices that could give you ideas for new job development targets or helpful information to share with existing employer partners.

New Opportunities for Younger Workers

As the workforce ages, there will not be enough younger workers to fill openings, particularly in manufacturing or STEM trades. (STEM is science, technology, engineering and math.)

Build employer relationships in these fields and look for short term training programs or higher education options to help clients access these growth sectors.


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Good Ideas for Refugee Youth Employment

refugee youth image

Photo Credit: MYAN Australia

Higher Needs Your Advice about Successful Employment Strategies for Young Refugees

Innovative approaches to refugee youth employment is a priority topic at the upcoming Florida State Consultation in February.  I’ll be presenting several sessions and hope to learn from your advice and good ideas as I prepare.

Are there special  job development strategies, community resources or job readiness techniques that work for you?  How do you help clients think about balancing their dreams of higher education with the immediate pressures of contributing to family self-sufficiency?  How do you adjust your approaches to working with clients to best help refugee youth (ages 16-24)?  Any specific best practices for working with younger Cuban clients?

If you would be willing to share your expertise in an informal email or phone call, please let me know.

Depending on how my presentation shapes up, I might be able to bring in a guest presenter or two via skype and could offer a modest honorarium to help make that possible.

Thanks in advance for your assistance. 



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Guest Post: Manufacturing Hiring Managers Want Hard and Soft Skills

Allie Stoner

Allie Stoner, Supervisor of Employment Services, has been with Catholic Charities Diocese of Chicago for a year and a half. She became interested in working with refugees after traveling to multiple countries and working cross culturally in social services.

I recently attended the 2014 Youth Development Symposium presented by the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP). Manufacturing for the 21st Century, a seminar led by Tim Spires, President and CEO of the Tennessee Association of Manufacturers outlined the specific qualities Hiring Managers look for in the manufacturing field.

Here is my summary of Spires’ remarks focusing on what’s important for job developers to know when reaching out to manufacturing employers.

Studies have shown that continued growth in the manufacturing industry creates more jobs for individuals seeking employment. There are manufacturing jobs available across the country for qualified applicants.

The manufacturing field offers stable hours, opportunities for advancement, and the chance to develop transferable skills.

Hiring managers look for a variety of skills when interviewing candidates. Both hard and soft skills are crucial for this type of work.

Manufacturing work is fast paced and difficult. In order to succeed in this atmosphere, refugee clients need to exhibit a sharp, hardworking attitude and approach to tasks. Attendance and timeliness is key, as well as a teachable and trainable response to constructive criticism. Employees should be self-motivated and able to interact respectfully with coworkers.

Refugee clients will succeed in the manufacturing field if they possess the ability to plan, organize, and prioritize tasks. Verbal communication skills are crucial; this type of work is better suited for clients who speak high levels of English. The qualified candidate will be able to make decisions and solve problems as part of a larger team. Data analysis skills and any relevant technical knowledge will also increase applicant competitiveness.

Note: Thanks to Allie for attending this great event and sharing some of what she learned. Thanks also to NAWDP for offering this opportunity to the refugee employment network. Higher and NAWDP recently discovered how much we have in common and are building ways we can collaborate more closely. Look for more in the coming month and check out NAWDP’s website.


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End of Summer Opportunities

back to schoolGet a jump on fall.  Here are ideas to think about NOW.

1.  Fall semester schedules and registration:  Gather information and make it widely available so clients can pursue good quality learning opportunities.  Community college sign-ups and orientation are coming up soon.  Consider sending employers the information.  All of their employees will benefit and they may be more flexible about granting time off to your clients.

2.  Turnover  in Student-related jobs:  There will be turnover in jobs filled by students as their schedules change for a  new semester.  Campus housing, maintenance and food service jobs will be widely available.  Watch for school district hiring fairs for kitchen and lunchroom monitor jobs.  Great for moms who need parttime work around children’s schedules.

3.  Start of busy season for hotels:  Business travel.  Cooler weather.  Dread of the coming holiday slowdown.  Hotels are gearing up for full occupancy now.  Get in touch with your hotel partners.  Approach a couple of new ones.  Consider organizing a special job readiness session focused on preparing for success in back of the house jobs.

4.  Special events staffing:  State fairs.  Fall concerts.  Football games.  All kinds of special events recruit staff to set-up, serve, and clean up.  These opportunities are great for extra income or to build US work experience.  Aramark and Sodexo are national contractors.  A quick google search or phone call should help you identify local contractors.


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