Youth employment rates are rising. The unemployment rate for young people fell to 10.3 percent in January, down from an all-time high of 19.5 percent in April 2010, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data reported in Trading Economics1. However, these gains are primarily among youth who are out of school; those who are trying to simultaneously go to school and work are still struggling to balance both demands, a Child Trends Databank report observes2. If your organization is trying to connect youth with jobs, the success of your program depends heavily on securing support from local businesses. Here are a few ways youth programs can make local businesses more motivated to hire their programs' participants.

1. Host a Career Fair & Give Them Positive Publicity

In 2011, McDonald's captured national headlines by launching its first annual National Hiring Day, which aimed to add 50,000 jobs in one day to the chain's payroll3. Companies that sponsor job and career fairs attract positive publicity, both in the eyes of prospective employees and in the eyes of consumers.

Host a career fair and encourage local businesses to participate. Create a promotional flier that highlights the benefits of sponsorship and attendance. Distribute the flier through channels such as websites and colleges and career centers that partner with businesses, and follow up with phone calls to company decision-makers. Give these sponsors additional publicity by including their names on promotional materials and event banners, and provide them with tables and speaking opportunities at your event.

2. Invite Business Owners to Observe Your Program in Action

The G200 Youth Forum, an international nongovernmental nonprofit that represents the views of emerging young leaders, extends businesses the opportunity to participate as observers, offering the opportunity to form contacts with participants and other business and academic partners4.

Adopt a similar strategy. Invite local business leaders to sit in on your events and training sessions and witness the value of the program for themselves. Getting businesses involved as observers or advisors can raise their interest in the success of your program and the youth you serve.

3. Promote High School Completion

In 2014, the average employment rate for youth who had completed high school but not gone on to college was 63.7 percent, compared to 46.6 percent for those who had not completed high school, according to the National Center for Education Statistics5. Give participants in your program the opportunity to complete high school; it will increase their marketability and employability when looking for a job. Additionally, if your students are interested in a particular field, offer them the chance to take electives in that area of study and make sure that employers are aware of this specification, as this will serve as a major point of differentiation.

4. Emphasize Industry Credentials

Seventy-two percent of employers feel that specialized training for specific skills is more valuable than a degree in today's job market, according to an analysis conducted by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce and reported in USA Today6. In some fields, such as healthcare, IT, and manufacturing, median earnings for graduates with an associate's degree can be $55,000 or more, and in some cases, particularly in high-tech fields, a two-year degree or technical certificate can yield a better return on investment than a four-year degree.

Help your program participants earn skill-specific certification and encourage them to emphasize their certification when job hunting. It will improve their hiring potential in the eyes of prospective employers.

Recommended for you: Youth Organizations: Best Practices for Organizing a College & Career Fair

Resources: (1)Trading Economics (2) Child Trends Databank (3) USA Today (4) G200 Youth Forum (5) National Center for Education Statistics (6) USA Today