Employer Engagement

Jobs are transitory, careers are enduring. Schools and programs preparing youth for careers need professional partners to ensure relevance, provide context, support classroom learning and expose youth to real life workplaces. Effective employer engagement practices and organizational quality standards help schools, workforce programs, intermediaries and others build and sustain employer involvement in their systems.

A Quick Guide To Employer Engagement

Below you will find a guide to effectively recruit and engage a range of employers to provide work-based learning opportunities.

This guide is designed to help leadership and staff, including work-based learning coordinators, job developers and others from schools, community organizations and/or intermediary partners effectively recruit and engage a range of employers to provide work-based learning opportunities for students or young adults, and to support activities in the classroom. It recognizes that not all employers can provide the same levels of commitment to or involvement in a particular program or initiative, but that any employer can be engaged in one or more activities if the experience is designed and supported with employer capacity in mind. It also recognizes that employer engagement is not just one person in the organization’s job, but takes a concerted effort of staff and partners across the entire organization or initiative.

Overview

This guide is a companion to the New Ways Work-Based Learning Toolkit, which provides detail on the overall approach to work-based learning and definitions of the full range of work-based learning activities provided for students or young adults over the course of their engagement with particular program. It also provides tip sheets, fact sheets and tools to support each experience. All individuals on the employer engagement team should be familiar with the toolkit—in particular the elements designed to support employer participation.

This guide is focused on framing and building capacity at two levels

What's Inside?

The first level, described in Section One of the Quick Guide, is focused on the strategies your organization and partners can apply to effectively recruit and fully engage employers. Whether you represent a school, communitybased organization or intermediary that is committed to making and managing the employer connections for your school or program, paying attention to and addressing each of the Five Organizational Strategies described below can greatly improve your employer recruitment and engagement capacity.

The second level, described in Section Two of this Quick Guide, focuses on activities that individuals conducting engagement activities can use to build their own personal capacity related to recruiting employers. By applying some basic marketing and sales strategies and approaches drawn from the private sector, all of those involved in employer recruitment, engagement and support can benefit from being aware of and applying the Four Simple Steps described in this section.

As the call for expanded work-based learning opportunities grows, it is important to shift from an individual approach to the employer recruitment, engagement and support process to one that can be embedded in a local system, with responsibilities spread among a number of individuals at the schools, community based organizations, community colleges and intermediary partners. The intent of this guide is to help improve employer engagement capacity of both individuals and organizations now, and lay a foundation for a broader local engagement effort in the future

Five Key Organizational Strategies

What can schools, community organizations and/or intermediary partners do to effectively engage employers?

This section of the Quick Guide is focused on the strategies your organization and partners can apply to effectively recruit and fully engage employers. Whether you represent a school, community-basedorganization or intermediary thatis committed to making and managing the employer connections for your school or program, paying attention to and addressing each of the Five Organizational Strategiesdescribed below can greatly improve your employer recruitment and engagement capacity.

Employers can play a number of critical roles in an effective community-based program or school. They can serve as design partners, inform curriculum or training, support activities in the classroom and provide a wide range of work-based learning activities for students or young adults. It’s important for the organization’s entire team to be engaged in the employer engagement process and to view employers as customers as well as partners. Generally, organizations that do a good job of engaging employers and community partners in their work share five common quality characteristics. By addressing each of the following five strategies, schools, community organizations and/or intermediary partners can broaden and sustain employer participation beyond their core employer base.

Effective Employer Engagement Organizations:

STRATEGY 1 - View Employers as Both Partners and Customers

Effective organizations define employers and community partners as primary customers in addition to the students or young adults they serve. They prioritize employer engagement and recruitment as a core and necessary function. Resources, staffing and organizational decisions reflect this dual-customer approach.

To build the employer relationship, organizations:

  • Prioritize employer engagement within the organization
  • Research the labor market and become familiar with regional needs and trends
  • Focus on employer benefits and address employer needs and motivations
  • Define the value proposition and focus on win/win opportunities
  • Value any and all levels of involvement
  • Cultivate long-term relationships with employers
STRATGEY 2 - Promote Customer Service

Effective organizations actively promote and practice customer service and demonstrate a sales and customer service orientation when interacting with employers. Staff and partners who interact with employers pay attention to understanding and addressing employers’ needs, and the approach is embedded in the program or school culture.

To promote customer service, organizations:

  • Maintain a professional environment and approach
  • Train staff and promote a marketing, sales and customer service culture
  • Support employer volunteers and hosts, including frontline supervisors
  • Provide a range of participation options and easy and comfortable ways to participate
  • Find ways to support and sustain employer involvement
STRATEGY 3 - Target Resources

Effective organizations identify, leverage and target effort and resources, both human and capital, to support their employer engagement activities. Strategies, resources and people’s time are assigned to support a range of marketing, sales, service, support and evaluation functions.

To target resources, organizations:

  • Dedicate staff to the engagement effort
  • Train and support staff and partners as “engagement specialists”
  • Budget resources and leverage partner contributions to specifically support marketing and other activities
  • Create materials specifically targeted to the employer audience
  • Utilize effective data management tools and processes
STRATEGY 4 - Apply A Comprehensive Approach

Effective organizations and their partners apply a comprehensive and connected approach to help guide their employer engagement and recruitment work. They apply clear and detailed marketing plans and follow benchmarked timelines. They work closely with other educational and workforce initiatives seeking to connect with and engage employers, and are formally connected to a larger, broader system.

To apply a comprehensive approach, organizations:

  • Ensure engagement activities are driven by a detailed marketing plan
  • Promote effective communication between all parties
  • Document agreements through formal MOUs
  • Connect to and leverage the work of others
  • Participate in wider employer engagement initiatives (beyond their own program)
STRATEGY 5 - Focus On Outcomes

Effective organizations and their partners apply continuous improvement practices to gauge the effectiveness of their employer engagement and recruitment efforts and guide their work. Schools and partners are focused on outcomes, and use a variety of measures to evaluate and improve their practice.

To focus on outcomes, organizations:

  • Set measurable goals and celebrate success
  • Measure the effectiveness of the engagement effort
  • Use customer satisfaction surveys to improve performance
  • Conduct regular organizational assessments and evaluations
  • Practice continuous improvement

Your school, community organization or intermediary and your employer engagement partners can expand their capacity to recruit and engage employers by paying attention to these five key strategies. A self-assessment that can help you identify your progress in each of these areas and develop plans for improvement is provided in Attachment 3 of this guide.

employer engagement strategies chart.

Four Simple Steps

What can engagement specialists to to effectively engage new partners?

This section of the Quick Guide, focuses on activities that individuals conducting engagement activities can use to build their own personal capacity related to recruiting employers. By applying some basic marketing and sales strategies and approaches drawn from the private sector, all of those involved in employer recruitment, engagement and support can benefit from being aware of and applying the Four Simple Steps described in this section

Engaging and recruiting employers is critical to the success and sustainability of successful career pathway and youth workforce development programs. Potential employer partners come in a range of forms and varying capacities to connect to and participate with your program, school or organization—and all of their commitments and contributions are important. While schools and youth programs need employers to participate in a wide range of activities, including serving on an advisory board, offering a range of classroom supports for teachers or instructors and providing work-based learning opportunities for students and young adults, not all employers need to participate in every activity. Each employer has something unique to contribute to your school or program. This quick guide is intended to help employer engagement staff identify, recruit and engage a wide range of employers with their school, career pathway or youth program.

As described in the first section of this quick guide, the employer engagement effort requires focus, a shift in the way programs and schools think about employers and the application leveraged, and dedicated resources. Your organization or school should be creative in how you organize and support the employer engagement effort. Consider partnering with other organizations or school-based programs involved in developing work-based learning opportunities in a coordinated engagement effort. These organizations are not your competition; they are potential partners in the work. Within your organization, leverage your team members, employer partners, parents, students and participating young adults. They all have connections to potential employer partners and can help create warm leads for the engagement effort. Business partners, intermediary organizations and others may be positioned to help you with the employer engagement process. Look to partner with an intermediary focused on brokering connections between groups of employers and schools and organizations. They can be particularly helpful in supporting your employer recruitment activities and helping you sustain employer involvement. You have many tools to work with and people on your team and in your community to help make it happen. Business partners, intermediary organizations and others may be positioned to help you with the employer engagement process.

Effective Employer Engagement Practices:

Finally, it’s important that you get comfortable seeing yourself as a marketing and sales professional in this aspect of your school or program’s work. As you increase your ability to address the needs and interests of potential and existing employer partners, you will be able to provide more opportunities for the students and young adults you serve, and increase support and involvement in your program overall.

STEP 1 - Be Prepared
  • Get to know everything you can about the local economy and the industries upon which your school or program is focused, and research the labor market to become familiar with local industry trends and forecasts. All industries offer partnership opportunities and can participate in activities that will benefit your school or program and the young people you serve.
  • Identify those employers that are active in the community, and others that have the potential to be involved with your school or program.
  • Define the services your school or program will provide to support broad employer engagement in the full range of participation options4. Remember, employers are customers and as such need specialized support to maximize their participation.
  • Define and be conversant with the employer benefits associated with partnering with your school or program or providing opportunities for students or young adults.
  • Define the potential value and benefit of having your students or youth program members engaged with employers—in both the short and long term.
  • Get to know the number, skills, interests and availability of your students or young adults and when they will be ready for particular experiences. This will help you target and sequence your engagement efforts and effectively match students to appropriate opportunities.
  • Identify internal, partner and external resources for the employer engagement and recruitment effort.
  • Consider the fact that students or young adults themselves can be effective recruiters, and help them get prepared to help you connect with potential employers.
STEP 2 - Make a Plan and Stick to It!

Create and follow a marketing plan and activities schedule to guide your employer engagement and recruitment effort. Include the following components:

  • State your purpose, goals and objectives to help keep you focused and on track with your plan.
  • Start with your core partners and further define your customer base in order to focus on new potential partners who are likely to be receptive to your message.
  • Qualify the market, paying attention to potential partners beyond your current base of employers. Target industries with projected growth and/or future labor force needs and individual employers likely to become engaged with your program.
  • Find out about those employers that have current or prior involvement with education, workforce development and/or community-based activities and add them to your prospect list.
  • Create key messages to ensure consistency and clarity in your marketing and recruitment. Create and hone your elevator pitch.
  • Plan and outline your marketing strategies, including a steady balance among the following activity areas:
    o General Awareness – press coverage, media campaigns, events and newsletters.
    o Targeted Marketing – mailings, phone campaigns and networking.
    o Direct Recruiting – presentations at meetings, in person and at job fairs or industry events.
  • Create a detailed activities calendar to help organize your marketing and sales activities.
STEP 3 - Market and Promote Your Program
  • Start with your core partners, and work with intermediaries and others to build a solid foundation and grow your employer engagement activities from there. Consider a small campaign to recruit new employers. Identify prospects from your existing employer partners, advisory board members, staff and others.
  • Highlight the fact that your program is designed specifically to address defined employer needs and help support future workforce development.
  • Focus on customer service, and ensure that you are able to address the unique needs, interests and circumstances of each prospective employer partner.
  • Network in multiple circles to raise awareness of your program and to develop relationships with a wide range of potential employer partners.
  • Prepare a sales presentation to address the short- and long-term needs and concerns of prospective employers.
  • Focus on the win/win, high-value proposition associated with working with you.  Your audience wants to know, “What’s in it for me?”
  • Get to Yes. Leave a meeting or presentation with a clear and stated commitment to the next step.
  • Close the deal by understanding your potential partner’s motivation, and be ready to value all participation commitments. If you are looking for career mentors and end up with a guest speaker, celebrate!
STEP 4 - Deliver Flawless Follow-Up
  • Become a primary resource for information and problem solving, even if not directly related to something that your school or program can provide. Become aware of resources in the community and connect employers to others who can address their needs and interests. Be their go-to connection to your community’s education and workforce systems.
  • Support the ongoing participation of your partners by making sure that their needs and expectations are being met.
  • Deliver on promises. Your employers need to be able to count on you.
  • Measure results and share information to guide decisions and engage your partners in making improvements.
  • Stay in regular contact to ensure satisfaction and develop lasting relationships.Become a primary resource for information and problem solving, even if not directly related to something that your school or program can provide. Become aware of resources in the community and connect employers to others who can address their needs and interests. Be their go-to connection to your community’s education and workforce systems.
  • Support the ongoing participation of your partners by making sure that their needs and expectations are being met.
  • Deliver on promises. Your employers need to be able to count on you.
  • Measure results and share information to guide decisions and engage your partners in making improvements.
  • Stay in regular contact to ensure satisfaction and develop lasting relationships.
+ Quick Guide Overview

Overview

This guide is a companion to the New Ways Work-Based Learning Toolkit, which provides detail on the overall approach to work-based learning and definitions of the full range of work-based learning activities provided for students or young adults over the course of their engagement with particular program. It also provides tip sheets, fact sheets and tools to support each experience. All individuals on the employer engagement team should be familiar with the toolkit—in particular the elements designed to support employer participation.

This guide is focused on framing and building capacity at two levels

What's Inside?

The first level, described in Section One of the Quick Guide, is focused on the strategies your organization and partners can apply to effectively recruit and fully engage employers. Whether you represent a school, communitybased organization or intermediary that is committed to making and managing the employer connections for your school or program, paying attention to and addressing each of the Five Organizational Strategies described below can greatly improve your employer recruitment and engagement capacity.

The second level, described in Section Two of this Quick Guide, focuses on activities that individuals conducting engagement activities can use to build their own personal capacity related to recruiting employers. By applying some basic marketing and sales strategies and approaches drawn from the private sector, all of those involved in employer recruitment, engagement and support can benefit from being aware of and applying the Four Simple Steps described in this section.

As the call for expanded work-based learning opportunities grows, it is important to shift from an individual approach to the employer recruitment, engagement and support process to one that can be embedded in a local system, with responsibilities spread among a number of individuals at the schools, community based organizations, community colleges and intermediary partners. The intent of this guide is to help improve employer engagement capacity of both individuals and organizations now, and lay a foundation for a broader local engagement effort in the future

+ Organizational Strategies

Five Key Organizational Strategies

What can schools, community organizations and/or intermediary partners do to effectively engage employers?

This section of the Quick Guide is focused on the strategies your organization and partners can apply to effectively recruit and fully engage employers. Whether you represent a school, community-basedorganization or intermediary thatis committed to making and managing the employer connections for your school or program, paying attention to and addressing each of the Five Organizational Strategiesdescribed below can greatly improve your employer recruitment and engagement capacity.

Employers can play a number of critical roles in an effective community-based program or school. They can serve as design partners, inform curriculum or training, support activities in the classroom and provide a wide range of work-based learning activities for students or young adults. It’s important for the organization’s entire team to be engaged in the employer engagement process and to view employers as customers as well as partners. Generally, organizations that do a good job of engaging employers and community partners in their work share five common quality characteristics. By addressing each of the following five strategies, schools, community organizations and/or intermediary partners can broaden and sustain employer participation beyond their core employer base.

Effective Employer Engagement Organizations:

STRATEGY 1 - View Employers as Both Partners and Customers

Effective organizations define employers and community partners as primary customers in addition to the students or young adults they serve. They prioritize employer engagement and recruitment as a core and necessary function. Resources, staffing and organizational decisions reflect this dual-customer approach.

To build the employer relationship, organizations:

  • Prioritize employer engagement within the organization
  • Research the labor market and become familiar with regional needs and trends
  • Focus on employer benefits and address employer needs and motivations
  • Define the value proposition and focus on win/win opportunities
  • Value any and all levels of involvement
  • Cultivate long-term relationships with employers
STRATGEY 2 - Promote Customer Service

Effective organizations actively promote and practice customer service and demonstrate a sales and customer service orientation when interacting with employers. Staff and partners who interact with employers pay attention to understanding and addressing employers’ needs, and the approach is embedded in the program or school culture.

To promote customer service, organizations:

  • Maintain a professional environment and approach
  • Train staff and promote a marketing, sales and customer service culture
  • Support employer volunteers and hosts, including frontline supervisors
  • Provide a range of participation options and easy and comfortable ways to participate
  • Find ways to support and sustain employer involvement
STRATEGY 3 - Target Resources

Effective organizations identify, leverage and target effort and resources, both human and capital, to support their employer engagement activities. Strategies, resources and people’s time are assigned to support a range of marketing, sales, service, support and evaluation functions.

To target resources, organizations:

  • Dedicate staff to the engagement effort
  • Train and support staff and partners as “engagement specialists”
  • Budget resources and leverage partner contributions to specifically support marketing and other activities
  • Create materials specifically targeted to the employer audience
  • Utilize effective data management tools and processes
STRATEGY 4 - Apply A Comprehensive Approach

Effective organizations and their partners apply a comprehensive and connected approach to help guide their employer engagement and recruitment work. They apply clear and detailed marketing plans and follow benchmarked timelines. They work closely with other educational and workforce initiatives seeking to connect with and engage employers, and are formally connected to a larger, broader system.

To apply a comprehensive approach, organizations:

  • Ensure engagement activities are driven by a detailed marketing plan
  • Promote effective communication between all parties
  • Document agreements through formal MOUs
  • Connect to and leverage the work of others
  • Participate in wider employer engagement initiatives (beyond their own program)
STRATEGY 5 - Focus On Outcomes

Effective organizations and their partners apply continuous improvement practices to gauge the effectiveness of their employer engagement and recruitment efforts and guide their work. Schools and partners are focused on outcomes, and use a variety of measures to evaluate and improve their practice.

To focus on outcomes, organizations:

  • Set measurable goals and celebrate success
  • Measure the effectiveness of the engagement effort
  • Use customer satisfaction surveys to improve performance
  • Conduct regular organizational assessments and evaluations
  • Practice continuous improvement

Your school, community organization or intermediary and your employer engagement partners can expand their capacity to recruit and engage employers by paying attention to these five key strategies. A self-assessment that can help you identify your progress in each of these areas and develop plans for improvement is provided in Attachment 3 of this guide.

+ Organizational Strategies Chart
employer engagement strategies chart.
+ Engagement Specialist Practices

Four Simple Steps

What can engagement specialists to to effectively engage new partners?

This section of the Quick Guide, focuses on activities that individuals conducting engagement activities can use to build their own personal capacity related to recruiting employers. By applying some basic marketing and sales strategies and approaches drawn from the private sector, all of those involved in employer recruitment, engagement and support can benefit from being aware of and applying the Four Simple Steps described in this section

Engaging and recruiting employers is critical to the success and sustainability of successful career pathway and youth workforce development programs. Potential employer partners come in a range of forms and varying capacities to connect to and participate with your program, school or organization—and all of their commitments and contributions are important. While schools and youth programs need employers to participate in a wide range of activities, including serving on an advisory board, offering a range of classroom supports for teachers or instructors and providing work-based learning opportunities for students and young adults, not all employers need to participate in every activity. Each employer has something unique to contribute to your school or program. This quick guide is intended to help employer engagement staff identify, recruit and engage a wide range of employers with their school, career pathway or youth program.

As described in the first section of this quick guide, the employer engagement effort requires focus, a shift in the way programs and schools think about employers and the application leveraged, and dedicated resources. Your organization or school should be creative in how you organize and support the employer engagement effort. Consider partnering with other organizations or school-based programs involved in developing work-based learning opportunities in a coordinated engagement effort. These organizations are not your competition; they are potential partners in the work. Within your organization, leverage your team members, employer partners, parents, students and participating young adults. They all have connections to potential employer partners and can help create warm leads for the engagement effort. Business partners, intermediary organizations and others may be positioned to help you with the employer engagement process. Look to partner with an intermediary focused on brokering connections between groups of employers and schools and organizations. They can be particularly helpful in supporting your employer recruitment activities and helping you sustain employer involvement. You have many tools to work with and people on your team and in your community to help make it happen. Business partners, intermediary organizations and others may be positioned to help you with the employer engagement process.

Effective Employer Engagement Practices:

Finally, it’s important that you get comfortable seeing yourself as a marketing and sales professional in this aspect of your school or program’s work. As you increase your ability to address the needs and interests of potential and existing employer partners, you will be able to provide more opportunities for the students and young adults you serve, and increase support and involvement in your program overall.

STEP 1 - Be Prepared
  • Get to know everything you can about the local economy and the industries upon which your school or program is focused, and research the labor market to become familiar with local industry trends and forecasts. All industries offer partnership opportunities and can participate in activities that will benefit your school or program and the young people you serve.
  • Identify those employers that are active in the community, and others that have the potential to be involved with your school or program.
  • Define the services your school or program will provide to support broad employer engagement in the full range of participation options4. Remember, employers are customers and as such need specialized support to maximize their participation.
  • Define and be conversant with the employer benefits associated with partnering with your school or program or providing opportunities for students or young adults.
  • Define the potential value and benefit of having your students or youth program members engaged with employers—in both the short and long term.
  • Get to know the number, skills, interests and availability of your students or young adults and when they will be ready for particular experiences. This will help you target and sequence your engagement efforts and effectively match students to appropriate opportunities.
  • Identify internal, partner and external resources for the employer engagement and recruitment effort.
  • Consider the fact that students or young adults themselves can be effective recruiters, and help them get prepared to help you connect with potential employers.
STEP 2 - Make a Plan and Stick to It!

Create and follow a marketing plan and activities schedule to guide your employer engagement and recruitment effort. Include the following components:

  • State your purpose, goals and objectives to help keep you focused and on track with your plan.
  • Start with your core partners and further define your customer base in order to focus on new potential partners who are likely to be receptive to your message.
  • Qualify the market, paying attention to potential partners beyond your current base of employers. Target industries with projected growth and/or future labor force needs and individual employers likely to become engaged with your program.
  • Find out about those employers that have current or prior involvement with education, workforce development and/or community-based activities and add them to your prospect list.
  • Create key messages to ensure consistency and clarity in your marketing and recruitment. Create and hone your elevator pitch.
  • Plan and outline your marketing strategies, including a steady balance among the following activity areas:
    o General Awareness – press coverage, media campaigns, events and newsletters.
    o Targeted Marketing – mailings, phone campaigns and networking.
    o Direct Recruiting – presentations at meetings, in person and at job fairs or industry events.
  • Create a detailed activities calendar to help organize your marketing and sales activities.
STEP 3 - Market and Promote Your Program
  • Start with your core partners, and work with intermediaries and others to build a solid foundation and grow your employer engagement activities from there. Consider a small campaign to recruit new employers. Identify prospects from your existing employer partners, advisory board members, staff and others.
  • Highlight the fact that your program is designed specifically to address defined employer needs and help support future workforce development.
  • Focus on customer service, and ensure that you are able to address the unique needs, interests and circumstances of each prospective employer partner.
  • Network in multiple circles to raise awareness of your program and to develop relationships with a wide range of potential employer partners.
  • Prepare a sales presentation to address the short- and long-term needs and concerns of prospective employers.
  • Focus on the win/win, high-value proposition associated with working with you.  Your audience wants to know, “What’s in it for me?”
  • Get to Yes. Leave a meeting or presentation with a clear and stated commitment to the next step.
  • Close the deal by understanding your potential partner’s motivation, and be ready to value all participation commitments. If you are looking for career mentors and end up with a guest speaker, celebrate!
STEP 4 - Deliver Flawless Follow-Up
  • Become a primary resource for information and problem solving, even if not directly related to something that your school or program can provide. Become aware of resources in the community and connect employers to others who can address their needs and interests. Be their go-to connection to your community’s education and workforce systems.
  • Support the ongoing participation of your partners by making sure that their needs and expectations are being met.
  • Deliver on promises. Your employers need to be able to count on you.
  • Measure results and share information to guide decisions and engage your partners in making improvements.
  • Stay in regular contact to ensure satisfaction and develop lasting relationships.Become a primary resource for information and problem solving, even if not directly related to something that your school or program can provide. Become aware of resources in the community and connect employers to others who can address their needs and interests. Be their go-to connection to your community’s education and workforce systems.
  • Support the ongoing participation of your partners by making sure that their needs and expectations are being met.
  • Deliver on promises. Your employers need to be able to count on you.
  • Measure results and share information to guide decisions and engage your partners in making improvements.
  • Stay in regular contact to ensure satisfaction and develop lasting relationships.