The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) includes youth workforce development programs and resources aimed at both in-school and out-of-school youth, with a strong emphasis on out-of-school youth between the ages of 16-24. Since most refugee resettlement programs do not have youth-specific employment programs, being familiar with the resources available to youth through the mainstream workforce development system can be a game-changer for younger refugees. Here are a few key programs and resources to be aware of:
- Job Corps is a nationwide program that offers free career training in variety of industries. This program is aimed at giving young people the skills they need in order to obtain employment and become self-sufficient. Job Corps is located in all 50 states, but some states have several sites whereas states like Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Alaska only have one Job Corps center.
- Youthbuild is an organization that is found in 46 states and aims to give construction skills to low income out-of-school youth. The program aims to put the participants on a path to responsible adulthood and teaches them to give back to the local community. The 10-month program pairs classroom learning with construction skills so that teens leave the program with a GED and professional skills. Participants spend about 50% of their time in academic classrooms and the rest of the time is spent on hands-on job training building affordable housing or other community assets. The program serves around 10,000 low-income young people each year and includes mentoring, follow-up education, employment, and personal counseling services.
- AmeriCorps is a civil service program supported by the U.S. federal government, foundations, and corporations with the goal of serving local communities. Participants commit to full-time or part-time positions offered by a network of nonprofit community organizations and public agencies, to fulfill assignments in the fields of education, public safety, health care, and environmental protection. AmeriCorps is a wonderful opportunity to expose youth to the needs of their own community while also giving them valuable professional skills as well has professional references. Additionally, anyone who completes AmeriCorps is given an educational award with which to use towards an associates, bachelor or master’s degree.
- Refugee AmeriCorps is a type of AmeriCorps program, that places members at refugee resettlement agencies. Volunteering with AmeriCorps, full or part time, can be a great way to get work experience and give back to the community. To learn about AmeriCorps volunteer opportunities, visit the AmeriCorps website, or reach out to your local resettlement agencies to learn if they have an Refugee AmeriCorps position available.
In order to gain access to these programs, your agency will need to take the initiative to reach out to these organizations to introduce your population. Like any partnership you will need to consider the cost and benefits of pursuing collaboration with these mainstream programs. For example how much staff time does it take to establish and maintain partnership versus simply doing job development for clients? It may be better to gather other resettlement agencies in your area to act as a larger network when planning partnership with these mainstream programs.
In addition to youth programs, there are also online resources geared towards youth:
Youth Rules! – This is a great online resource for tech savvy youth who have a higher level of English skills. The site covers the child labor laws and minimum age for employment in each state. There is a great Youth Worker Toolkit that is basically a 101 on working in the US for youth similar to job readiness training that refugee agencies provide.
All of the presentations are colorful and interactive and there are even helpful free apps for listening to webinars or keeping track of work hours and pay dates.
This resource is a great place to explore different options for part-time work or training. There are forums and blogs and even instructions on how to report violation of workers’ rights.
GetMyFuture is a resource available on careeronestop.org that provides a “dashboard” or “portal” for youth who need information on a range of education and career related topics. For example, youth can get information about writing a resume, applying for college, starting a business, or access assessment tools that will help identify suitable careers based on interest and skills.
All of these programs and websites offer an array of resources related to educational and career resources for youth as well as ideas for topics to cover in job readiness instruction. These resources are easy to navigate but many of them are text heavy and would be difficult for clients without English proficiency to use independently. You may want to consider translating some of the resources into a curriculum for refugee youth or using them during one-on-one sessions between a refugee and volunteer.
For easy links to these and other youth-related resources, check out the clickable Mainstream Youth Employment Resources tool we created this past Spring.
Ask us your questions and share your success stories about working with refugee youth by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.