Years into the economic recovery, young adults still face difficulty connecting to the labor market. High unemployment is particularly a problem for young people of color. Many live in communities without a strong employment base, have attended low-performing schools, and lack connections to employed adults who can provide guidance and help them explore career interests, identify labor market opportunities, and navigate application processes. Even when jobs that can provide a good standard of living are available, getting the education and experience required for these can be a costly long-term pursuit.
This brief describes a strategy that helps connect young adults to “now jobs” that address their immediate income needs while continuing to prepare them for long-term career opportunities. “Now Jobs” in Young Adult Workforce Programming explores the role of “now jobs” in young adult workforce development.
A “now job” can take a variety of forms, including subsidized employment, short- and long-term internships, community service, and unsubsidized employment. Workforce service providers note that offering a wage subsidy puts them in a better position to secure and deepen engagement with employers about the expectations for a job opportunity. This brief describes this time- and resource-intensive strategy and outlines the ways in which offering a wage subsidy helps create a structure for providing ongoing support to both the employed young adult and the employer. We highlight examples from two workforce programs and describe how they have worked to maximize the potential benefit of subsidized “now job” experiences for their participants. The research brief concludes by discussing some of the challenges encountered by workforce providers implementing “now job” approaches.
Why a “now job” approach?
A “now job” can serve multiple purposes, including the following:
- Help address a young adult’s immediate income needs.
- Provide valuable work experience for young adults who have never had a job.
- Provide opportunities to learn about workplace behavioral norms and expectations and to try out communication and conflict resolution skills learned in training
- Help young adults explore their strengths and interests, build relationships, and expand their social and professional networks
Importantly, a “now job” can be a re-engagement strategy for young adults who have had negative experiences with employment or education in the past. However, not all “now jobs” represent participants’ (or service providers’) notion of an ideal, permanent job. Most “now jobs” are low wage and entry level. In some cases, “now jobs” may not even be directly on a recognized path toward a longer-term career job goal (what we will refer to as a “later job”). For example, a young adult enrolled in a health care training program may receive assistance obtaining a subsidized “now job” in retail. Workforce program staff would engage with the retail store manager to advocate for a schedule that allows the participant to attend classes.