Recently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation released a white paper titled, Making Youth Employment Work: Essential Elements for Successful Strategy, to provide employers with proven approaches to onboarding programs for young adults. In the white paper, we lay out five essential elements of successful program implementation. Over the coming weeks, we will elaborate on each essential element for success on our blog. This week, we look at essential element #3.
Essential Element 3: Examine business policies that inhibit youth hiring
Developing a robust pipeline of youth talent is often blocked by policies or processes, both internal and external. The list of legal and policy barriers to employing younger workers can be daunting. Companies may not understand regulations affecting those under 18, or they may face business-specific restrictions (e.g., safety issues in manufacturing). As a result, they are possibly overlooking a large group of potential candidates due to unnecessarily restrictive job experience requirements or application systems that screen out candidates before they can ever reach a real person.
This need not be the case. Wegmans educates both the high school students and their managers on the labor laws for minors to ensure compliance. At Quality Float Works, though students under 18 are restricted from operating certain machines, CEO Sandra Westlund-Deenihan has structured the program to accommodate such restrictions so that students are able to work on the legally allowable machines and contribute in other ways, such as through quality assurance.
Barriers to employing young talent can also be inadvertently created by the company itself. As one example, Burning Glass research
recently found that fewer than 20% of executive assistants have a four-year college degree, yet 65% of current job postings for the position indicate that it is a requirement. This example of “credential inflation” highlights the need for companies to revisit their recruiting and screening policies.
The study cites: “Employers now require bachelor’s degrees for a wide range of jobs, but the shift has been dramatic for some of the occupations historically dominated by workers without a college degree. The gap can amount to 25 percentage points or more for middle-skill jobs.” Closely related to this trend is the well-worn path to the university career-placement center. Year Up’s
National Director for Corporate Engagement, Jeff Artis points out that it is the seemingly safe choice for far too many companies. For that reason, many turn to universities even for jobs that do not truly require that level of education simply because there is a sense that expanding recruiting efforts to candidates outside the typical talent pool is risky.
To remedy this, it is critical that businesses (and particularly decision makers) expand their vision of where outstanding talent can come from. Even so-called best practices, such as online application systems, can be notorious black holes for all but the most “perfect” (i.e., keyword-friendly) candidates. Because the most perfect candidate for the job may not, in fact, be perfect on paper, employers must actively engage in accruing and developing their next-generation talent pools.
Next week we will examine essential element #4: Prioritize soft skill development.