There are a number of factors contributing to the need for workforce boards to expand the reach of their programs: economic conditions, an oversupply of job seekers, underemployment, the need for skilled workers and growing expectations of funders and stakeholders. To meet this challenge, it falls upon workforce center directors to drive recruitment outreach. Here are seven strategies workforce center directors can implement to help their case managers recruit more clients.

1. Increase Training Offerings and Availability

Improving the quality and quantity of training opportunities is a prerequisite for increasing enrollment, according to the New York State Department of Labor1. A steady supply of quality offerings will attract prospective client interest. Job fairs, resume writing assistance workshops, job hunt coaching sessions and high school completion programs are a few examples of training opportunities workforce centers can promote to attract recruits.

2. Reach out to Opportunity Youth

Approximately 5.5 million youth between the ages of 16 and 24 are both out of school and out of work, according to the Aspen Institute2. Workforce centers can grow their increase the number of clients they serve by reaching out to this large pool of prospective clients. For instance, offer a high school completion program with career electives that introduce Opportunity Youth to potential careers in fields such as healthcare, hospitality, construction, and HVAC.

3. Increase Bilingual Outreach

Eighteen percent of those unemployed in March 2016 were Hispanic, according to the U.S.3 One way to reach out to this population, who are most in need of the services offered by workforce boards, is to hire bilingual recruiters. Additionally, workforce boards should identify if there are other large linguistic communities within their region, and hire bilingual recruiters accordingly.

4. Address Educational Qualifications

Workforce boards should work to better understand the credential gaps among the clients they serve. For instance4:

  • Over 24 million Americans ages 25 and older have not completed high school
  • Over 34 million Americans age 25 and above have some college education, but have yet to earn a degree, diploma, or certificate

To address this, workforce center directors can segment case managers and programs by educational level in order to focus on the needs of recruits with specific educational qualifications and needs.

5. Work with Educational Providers and Employers

Developing strategic partnerships with educational institutions and employers can be a powerful support to your recruitment efforts. Educational providers share a common target market with workforce boards, making natural partnerships for promoting opportunities such as high school completion programs and vocational training programs. Similarly, employers share workforce boards' interest in attracting skilled workers, and they also have similar recruitment needs. Aspen Institute's UpSkill America research has found that 89 percent of organizations currently offer worker development opportunities, but 73 percent don't track how many workers participate in these programs5. Workforce centers can help employers tap this underutilized potential.

6. Coach Career Pathways at Local High Schools

Lack of career direction in high school can cause students to end their educational careers early, hurting their employment prospects later. Workforce centers can attract more youth clients by intervening with these struggling students and guiding them toward a viable educational and career path. This effort should include outreach both to high school students and to youth who have left high school early.

7. Simplify the Sign-up Process

To recruit clients, workforce case managers must navigate a labyrinth of federal, state and local policies and requirements encompassing eligibility, validation, initial assessment policies, 599 approval, OSOS data entry, TAA rules, Pell Grant applications and more. Case managers and workforce staff often lack the training, knowledge and time to address all this efficiently. To overcome this, streamline the registration process. Workforce boards should create a standard onboarding procedure and single document to make it simpler for case managers to enroll clients.

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Sources: Photo credit. (1) New York State Department of Labor (2) Aspen Institute (3) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (4) U.S. Census Bureau: Educational Attainment (5) UpSkill America