Creating Employment Training Programs for Opportunity Youth

A young person training in a restaurant kitchen.

It’s been nearly nine months since the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, or WIOA, went into effect to revamp the country’s workforce training programs. Among the groups served by WIOA are opportunity youth, those young people ages 16 to 24 who have been disconnected from school or work for at least six months.

Opportunity youth face multiple barriers to employment, which affect both their financial and housing stability. That’s why Heartland Alliance in Chicago created the Opportunity Youth Employment Toolkit to help agencies provide effective employment training programs for youth who need it most.

The toolkit is made up of the following resources:

  • Research brief. The 30-page document includes six tips for designing programs targeting opportunity youth. For example, agencies should hire staff members with the skills and experiences needed to build trusting, supportive relationships with youth facing barriers to employment. These staff-participant bonds may be one of the strongest factors impacting a program’s success, the authors write.
  • Case studies. The toolkit showcases three agencies that have created supportive opportunities to help youth gain work experience and develop related skills. At Daybreak in Dayton, Ohio, youth can join a social enterprise that makes and sells gourmet pet treats to gain experience in baking, sales, marketing, and customer service. In Massachusetts, youth enrolled in one of Roca’s three transitional jobs programs can be fired, then rehired after working with staff to address areas of concern.
  • WIOA policy brief. This document outlines how programs can maximize their use of WIOA funds to better serve opportunity youth, especially now that young people are eligible for programs up to age 24. Additionally, organizations receiving WIOA funds are now required to spend 75% of funding on out-of-school youth versus 30% under a previous law.

More on Connecting Youth to Work

Learn About Strategies for Preparing Youth for Employment

3 Ways to Build Education and Career Opportunities for Disconnected Youth

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth, the Family and Youth Services Bureau, or the Administration for Children and Families.

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