On May 2nd, several TechHire grantees joined a Group Peer Learning call on Strategies for Serving Youth and Young Adults ages 17-24. During the call, grantees discussed strategies to engage young adults to enroll in their programs and persist, such as working with partner social service agencies. They also covered challenges, such as serving participants that are below the required math proficiency level and discussed potential solutions among their peers. Grantees discussed two challenges related to this population: 1) supporting the development of soft skills among; and 2) leveraging social media for program recruitment and engagement. This blog highlights several insights from this call, offers additional context on this age group, and provides resources and information related to each of the above challenges.
Pew defines millennials as people born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 22 to 37 in 2018) and anyone born after as “post-millennials”.1 These generations are the first in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations (Gen Xers and Boomers) had at the same stage of their life cycles.2,3 As such, the young adult populations in our TechHire programs are likely facing unprecedented challenges compared to their parents and grandparents.
Developing Soft Skills
Several grantees mentioned the need to ensure that young people have the appropriate level of soft skills to successfully interview for and succeed at a job. Several grantees focus explicitly on soft skills in their program; one noted that they use a curriculum to teach an “entrepreneurial mindset” to their participants along with a full soft skills training completed by all participants. While there are a lot of options in this space in terms of approach and curriculum content for teaching soft skills, a few resources that can inform an approach to this include:
- The New World of Work’s “Competencies, Attributes, and Traits for the ‘Top 10’ 21st Century Skills” covers details of the competencies for 21st Century Skills at the secondary, postsecondary and professional levels.
- The 21st Century Job Centers: A Practitioner’s Guide offers ideas in the process to find tools for skill building with some examples of what you might look for.
- MHA Labs created an extensive Toolkit that can be used by education and training programs to build soft skills among youth and young adults.
Engaging Youth and Young Adults through Social Media
The second challenge raised during the call was around how to use social media as a tool to engage young adults. One grantee shared that they regularly use social media for their advanced manufacturing program and the challenge can be finding the right content that attracts attention. She noted that LinkedIn has been useful for the program to engage employers and alumni and Twitter is useful for following companies and promoting their events. Others shared that they have asked students for suggestions on how to reach them and their communities – Spotify and Pandora were suggested for advertisements over traditional terrestrial radio ads. A unique finding for them was the popularity of a website called Twitch, which features live streaming of video games, which also has paid advertising opportunities.
According to the Pew Research Center, across all ages, YouTube and Facebook are the most widely used platforms and probably the best choice for a broader reach (think of connections with students’ parents, families, communities, etc.). A large share of young adults (18-29) are using Instagram and Snapchat, which may warrant consideration for TechHire programs.4 Instagram and Facebook Live videos can be an avenue for instructors tell stories about what they are teaching, successes by students, upcoming events, etc. Additional information on using social media is available via the resources below:
- “Social Media Fact Sheet.” Pew Research Center. This resource provides information on social media trends across age ranges and insights into how various platforms are used.
- “Five Strategies for Successful Recruitment of Children and Families in Human Service Programs.” The RAND Corporation. While this guide is focused on children and families, many of the general approaches can be adapted by TechHire grantees who serve Millennial and PostMillennial participants.
- “Using Social Media to Reach Participants.” Slides from presentation for the Health and Human Services Family and Youth Services Bureau. These slides provide an overview of various social media platforms and the demographics of users on these platforms; they also highlight social media strategies that can be used for adolescents, in particular.
- “The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media.” Moz, Inc. This general resource offers extensive information on multiple social media platforms, recommendations for finding the right network for a particular program, and a set of best practices.
- “Enhancing Youth Engagement: Youth Engagement Toolkit.” Prepared by Intalink Consulting. This Australian toolkit focuses on youth and young adults (those 12-25). The Engagement Framework (page 15) is a useful resource for identifying the tools and processes to leverage in engaging young people.