Achieving strong programmatic outcomes begins with recruitment.  Getting the right young people in the door – those individuals ready and excited to take full advantage of YouthBuild’s opportunities, with the readiness, determination and fortitude to overcome challenges and change their lives – is fundamental to realizing strong long-term outcomes.  Doing so requires a strategic approach which is data and goal driven, and supports the full programming cycle.
There are several key actions that must be taken to implement a strong recruitment strategy:
  1. Determine your programmatic strengths, goals and intended audience.  Given its comprehensive model, YouthBuild programs are designed to meet the needs of the at-risk youth populations they target.  However, each community is composed of differing populations of youth with differing needs, so the recruitment approach needs to be tailored for the unique community of need each YouthBuild program is serving, as well as those it can best serve based on the program design.  Consider these questions:
  • Does your program primarily prepare young people for the construction industry, or attract those with a broad range of long-term career goals to the educational opportunities? 
  • Are they driven by their ability to take on leadership and serve their community, or the need for self-sufficiency? 
  • Are they primarily still of high school age, living with family members, or are they the primarily providers for families of their own? 
  • Do you serve a large body of youth for whom English is a second language? 
          These resources can help you plan your recruitment strategy:
          Tip Sheet: Using Facebook to Boost Your Recruitment Numbers
          YouthBuild Newark Mental Toughness Handbook

  1. Create a timeline with specific goals for each stage of the process.  You should anticipate recruiting many more young people than you plan to enroll, and even more than you expect to be retained in the program.  The funnel provides an example of points of attrition where you can expect to lose some applicants.  Considering your final enrollment and intended long-term outcomes, use the funnel to work backwards and set target goals for each step of the process.
          See below for a link to a tool for marketing and an activity calendar:
  1. Create a staff team, under the direction and oversight of a programmatic leader, to oversee the process.  Ensure clear roles and responsibilities are outlined, benchmarks and milestones for each role and stage of the process are shared, and check in regularly to evaluate progress and make adjustments as needed.  Track your data so that you are able to analyze your progress at each stage to reference in future recruitment efforts.
          Below is a link to sample orientation planning materials:
          Sample Orientation/Mental Toughness Schedule
          Sample YouthBuild Orientation Plan
          Orientation Agenda
  1. Maintain regular contact, build excitement, and introduce potential participants to an inviting atmosphere and relationships at each stage of the process.  This should include regular communication (make sure to get several different phone numbers or means of contact) and ways for young people to remain connected to the program throughout the recruitment process. This process may go on for a number of months so young people need to know that the opportunity is real, in order to ensure they stay connected to the program and continue to build their enthusiasm for the opportunities that await them in YouthBuild.  Create intentional activities, whether visiting the current YouthBuild program in action, engaging in informational or orientation sessions, or completing interviews – all designed to continue their interest, and help them to experience YouthBuild culture, participants and staff.
          Here are some links to sample recruitment materials:
          Sample Recruitment Contacts and Efforts
          Prospective Student Interview Questions
          Sample Radio Recruitment Ad
          Sample Recruitment Flyer
  1. Mental Toughness becomes the first real opportunity both to re-establish the program culture – connecting young people with their reasons for participating, the caring and respectful atmosphere of staff, opportunities for leadership and greater involvement – while also creating the foundation of your program culture.  All of this will affect the number of participants who remain engaged and rise to the challenge.  Introduce all aspects of the program, make sure to make it meaningful and connect to long-term goals, while also clearly identifying and upholding programmatic expectations.  Young people should feel the combination of high expectations and strong support.
          Here are some links to Mental Toughness/Orientation resources:
          Mental Toughness Workbook
  1. Maintain a strong program culture throughout programming.  Your best recruitment strategy will ultimately be from word of mouth in the community.  The experiences that program participants have in your program are critical.  They should walk away telling their families, friends, and those they run into on the street about the amazing opportunities in YouthBuild.  Your staff, program partners, and other community supporters should be doing the same.  The stronger your program culture and the stronger the outcomes and results experienced by young people, the more likely that you will have an ongoing basis of recruitment in each upcoming year.
To learn more about recruitment and mental toughness, please take the time to view this archive of our DOL YouthBuild Webinar held on August 1, 2017, Strategic Recruitment and Orientation for YouthBuild Programs.  In this webinar, experts from YouthBuild USA and YouthBuild programs share their strategies, including understanding your recruitment goals, building assessments into marketing campaigns, and collecting and analyzing data more effectively with the goal of recruitment in mind.  Guests from two YouthBuild programs share their promising practices and successes in recruitment and orientation.