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A stronger youth workforce requires better networking opportunities

February 12, 2021

By: Mahir Hamid

Social networks are not just the number of connections we have on LinkedIn or Instagram. They are much more than that, and provide more utility than we think. 

Social networks are the professional backbone for youth entering the job force. Breadth in connections provides youth with access to opportunities, a medium to showcase their personal brand, and acts as a competitive social incentive for youth to work. Depth in connections shape how youth view the world, and their careers. 

But what happens when youth don’t have a strong social network? It hinders their ability to develop professionally. 

Schools provide exposure to work opportunities, along with educators who often serve as role models. Students can also tap into a community where they can create and build long-lasting social and professional friendships. 

Photo source: Longwood University

If educational institutions act as valuable support systems to build social networks for students, how do youth who are not in school get their support? 

Youth that are furthest from opportunity (i.e. not in school, training, or work) lack a strong social network because they can’t make connections the same way students do. Most of the youth I’ve spoken to in this situation rely on close friends and family to act as their social network. As a result, they have a decreased exposure to job openings, lack the motivation to start looking for jobs, and lack the role models needed to succeed. 

Fortunately, these problems are solvable.

The first solution is to leverage government programs to tackle the lack of breadth in connections. Government programs, and even some of Opportunity For All Youth initiatives, connect youth to employers, employers to youth, and youth with other youth. With this kind of connectivity support, we can ensure that young people who are furthest from opportunity have the professional backbone to explore work opportunities. 

The second solution is mentorship. Let’s facilitate connections with role models who can inspire youth to succeed. With the many challenges youth not in school or employment face – especially during a global pandemic –  they need someone to help them get through it all.

Science agrees with this, “Youth with mentors have increased likelihood of going to college, better attitudes toward school, increased social and emotional development, and improved self-esteem.” With strong mentorship, not only can youth feel prepared about entering the workforce, but they can navigate life feeling much more secure.

Photo source: Shoppe Black

The impact of social networks is huge. Stepping back and looking at the big picture, without social networks, the gap in opportunity between students and youth not in school widens—this gap creates structural barriers to not just employment, but also life as a whole. Youth that are not in school must have access to the means to develop more robust social networks, with both a breadth and a depth of connections, before this disparity becomes irreversible. 

Investing in our nation’s pipeline of young talent means building a strong community which includes a social network that is accessible to all youth, and that change must start now. 

 

If you’re between 15-29 and looking to break into the job market, visit InterviewME for free coaching and job opportunities in your area!

Employers: Want to learn more about Opportunity For All Youth and our innovative youth hiring programs? Contact us here!

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