By Sam Piha
Involving older youth as workers within afterschool programs makes a great deal of sense. Engaging youth in this way addresses their developmental tasks and personal interests, helps develop their workforce skills, offers opportunities for leadership and service to others, and brings youth input, making the program more relevant.
This is even more important post COVID. A recent study entitled, The State of Youth Employment-Navigating the World of Work During COVID-19 found:
- Young people in America are struggling—they are financially strained, emotionally drained, and facing significant barriers to employment.
- COVID-19 and the related economic recession have disrupted young people’s work lives in myriad ways and prompted extraordinary levels of concern about the future.
- The professional connections and supportive relationships that can help young people advance their work-related goals are out of reach for most youth.
- Young people’s hope about their future work lives is in jeopardy.
- Document promising practices being successfully used at afterschool programs and share them with those who are seeking to expand their programs’ capacity to engage youth as workers. This can be done by those who support the implementation of high school afterschool programs, including state afterschool networks, and those who receive technical assistance funds from private sources.
- Identify supplemental funding to support career pathways to engage older youth working within afterschool settings. If needed, policy changes should be enacted to encourage access or eliminate any barriers impeding access to these funds by afterschool programs. Identifying funds is a form of technical assistance and can be done by those named in recommendation #2, above. Efforts needed to change policy can be led by afterschool advocacy organizations within your state.
- Assist afterschool leaders in identifying and obtaining workforce and other supplemental dollars to support efforts that engage youth as workers in the afterschool setting. If needed, policy changes should be enacted to encourage access or eliminate any barriers impeding access to these funds by afterschool programs.
- Incorporate into existing studies or identify dedicated funding to evaluate the efficacy in providing youth with work opportunities within afterschool settings. This can be achieved by local afterschool grantees who are charged with evaluating their programs, as well as larger evaluations that are funded by state departments or private sources.