Lifting young workers’ voices can create a more equitable and inclusive workforce for all and can even lead to bottom-line improvements for businesses. Here, we provide three strategies for lifting youth voice and power in training, workplace, and policy settings drawn from our practical guide and interviews with 27 leaders in youth-serving workforce development and intermediary organizations.

1. Making space for young workers’ voices

By modeling a healthy workplace culture, youth-serving organizations can empower young people to learn and grow confidence in their ideas and lived experience. A healthy culture involves training staff on adultism and other biases, including young people in decisionmaking, asking for regular feedback, and compensating young people for their time and thoughtful contributions.

2. Building skills for young workers to advocate for themselves

In addition to making space for young people’s voices, youth-serving organizations ought to prepare young workers with the skills necessary to use their voice in the workplace. To start, organizations can offer information about workplace rights, including wage and hour laws, harassment policies, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. Next, young people need to understand how to communicate in a professional manner and, if needed, file formal complaints. As they enter the workplace, young people should have the knowledge needed to successfully navigate workplace norms, without sacrificing their safety or authentic selves.

3. Elevating young workers’ voices in community conversations and policy

Although self-advocacy in the workplace is crucial, these strategies can also encourage young people outside of the workplace, whether as part of local workforce initiatives or public policy. Outside of work, young people can advocate for change at sectoral, regional, and even national levels on issues that affect their lives but can’t be solved on a firm-by-firm basis. And this engagement in community processes provides multiple benefits, including potential career exploration, public speaking skills, leadership development, and policy knowledge.

Read the full article about labor and youth development by Madeleine Sirois at Urban Institute.