The USA promises to be a land of opportunities for all, however some disadvantaged young people in communities nationwide are struggling to get on the career ladder due to a skills gap which prevents them from getting a foothold in the world of work. Luckily, youth development programs are stepping into the breach, creating schemes that help to prepare young people with no college degree for a job that has a promising future.

The Skills Gap

Around 40% of employers in the USA struggle to find people who have the necessary skills to take on even entry-level positions. One way to address this shortfall has to be to tackle the skills gap – a vast pool of talent which, as yet, remains untapped in the form of young people who have fallen through the cracks in the education system.

It has been proven that young people who are unable to secure employment are more likely to fall into a life of crime, drugs, poverty and ill-health. Therefore, finding sectors that have high potential for growth but with a shortage of workers is essential. Once these have been identified, work can begin on training disenfranchised youths to undertake these positions.

The Boot Camp Approach

One training approach which has proven to be successful in many youth development programs is the boot camp. Lasting between two and three months, these boot camps ensure that the participants’ competency is regularly assessed with demonstrations to prove the skills learned. The employers from the shortage sectors work in close conjunction with those providing the training and may even offer their own staff in the role of trainers to ensure a hands-on, relevant approach to learning.

The forms that the learning may take can vary, but all are practical in nature, with on-site apprenticeships, in-person simulations and games which have been customized to the needs of each workplace in which learners are able to play repeatedly and virtually. Whichever direction the training is taking, it must have an in-person component which delivers intensive practice and builds trust so that learners feel supported.

Meeting The Needs Of Participants

Of course, all of the youth development programs in the world will be useless if those that could benefit most cannot access them. For this reason, the best programs are putting in place accessibility schemes such as transportation for those who live in rural areas and need to commute to the workplace, and childcare during boot camp attendance for young parents with little or no family support. By putting these facilities in place, it becomes possible for those who have been disenfranchised by the system to get back into education and become productive once more. By offering support to overcome the obstacles that present themselves to disadvantaged young people, youth development programs can make a big difference.

The Industries In Which Youth Programs Can Excel

There are youth programs within a wide range of sectors, with opportunities to appeal to all kinds of young people with different skills, talents and interests. One high profile example is the partnership of Hilton and the International Youth Federation. Designed with the aim of exposing young people to the possibilities of a career within the global hospitality industry, this program aims to help a million youths by the end of 2019.

Another prominent example is the Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative, a program which includes 26 community colleges and 19 different automotive companies across 13 states. This program appeals to young people who prefer to work with their hands, giving them practical training in the skills that they need to work in the automotive industry where skills shortages are rife. Participants in the program can benefit from a host of insider knowledge and learn skills as diverse as how to use the Makita Big Bore air compressor (the best air compressor according to Air Compressor Scout) to how to deal effectively with customers. These abilities will stand them in good stead whether they decide to remain within the sector or whether they choose to enter another field.

Although meeting the needs of young people who have fallen through the system can be a challenge, with the help of industry leaders and youth development programs, a bright future becomes possible.