By Terry Grobe, Director, JFF and TechHire SME

On June 11, TechHire grantees connected during a small group peer learning discussion, to share issues and strategies on how to effectively serve underrepresented groups in TechHire programs, with a focus on women, young men of color and Latinx participants. Terry Grobe, a director at JFF and a TechHire Subject Matter Expert (SME), highlighted several strategies to serve these groups effectively, which are included below.

Outreach and Recruitment

In addition to community partners, serving underrepresented groups often requires connections with new recruitment partners who might include:

  • Community college contacts who can share lists of students who have stopped out of college programming
  • System-level partners who can connect programs with youth in or leaving jail settings or youth transitioning from foster care

Developing relationships with new recruitment partners requires relationship building and takes time. Partners must become familiar with your programs and trust that people they refer will have a good experience in and get value from your program. 

Flying High, Inc., said that local press had been helpful in building interest in the new program and drawing referrals and referral interest and that a visit from a U.S. Senator had further brought visibility for the program.

Program Design

Ms. Grobe also provided several program design strategies that can support underrepresented groups, such as:

  • Encouraging the formation of affinity groups within the cohort or larger community to provide additional support for youth of color or young women pursuing non-traditional occupations.
  • Building a culture based on growth mindset and growth mindset practices. We talked about overcoming stereotype threat; cultural competence among program staff and employers helps overcome this as does raising awareness of this issue among participants.
  • Engaging alumni to discuss the value of the program, foster commitment and develop a sense of confidence among participants.

This last point particularly resonated with grantees. Several attendees on the call use this outreach strategy with potential participants to demonstrate resemblance and similarities with program alumni and provide confirmation that the training program is a pathway to a good job. Goodwill Industries, Inc., offered that on-line forums can be a useful tool to support both current participants and alums. Another point offered was the importance of building participants’ strengths and sense of hope and resilience.

Partner Selection and Engagement

Participants on the small group peer learning call explored several effective approaches for partner selection and engagement, including:

  • Vetting partners carefully and using them strategically. It is generally helpful to clarifyg the roles of partners and program staff early on. Cross-training should be offered when needed for staff.
  • Holding regular assessment meetings to track the effectiveness of the work and make needed adjustments to work and roles. This should also include feedback from participants that can provide insight into the effectiveness of partner services.
  • Partnering with employers that have an active interest in diversifying their workplaces.
  • Developing internships and other types of onsite trainings, whenever possible.These can be an effective way for participants to have a bit more time and protected space as they transition to full-time work and help employers better understand the needs of underrepresented populations so they can meet their needs more flexible and responsive manner.

Current Challenges

Grantees also shared several challenges related to serving underrepresented groups. These included helping participants understand the realities of a changing economy, helping them break generational patterns of low expectations, and dealing them address community patterns of racism or gender bias in the workplace. Flying High, Inc., shared the powerful strategy of having a young man of color in a manager role at a manufacturing plant talk to participants about the value of the company and the fact that they could make it in the company—and also that a longer commute was doable, especially when the jobs were valuable.


Related Resources

Included in this write-up are a number of resources that grantees may find helpful in learning more about the topics explored in this discussion. Ms. Grobe has also attached a power point with the features of JFF’s Back on Track models that were referenced during the call. 

Serving Boys and Men of Color:

This link describes an initiative that develops empowerment projects for Boys and Men of Color focused on healing from trauma:

This link describes successful literacy practices to support young men of color:

This link is a mentoring guide:

Women in Tech and Stem:

This link discusses women in STEM fields and issues of equity in invention:

This link is to a toolkit for how to involve women (and men) in non-traditional job training programs:

This links discusses how stories-particularly those learned through failure—motivate students to pursue STEM fields:

Serving Individuals with Barriers to Employment and Promoting Pathways to Employment:

This link is a discussion of how to help youth that face barriers to employment:

This link to the National Fund presents case studies and lessons on connecting youth to training and employment:

Program Design:

This link presents lessons from Opportunity Works, JFF Social Innovation Fund grant:

This link connects to JFF’s work-based learning framework:

This link is a toolkit with lessons from the 100K Initiative that focuses on creating pathways for opportunity youth: