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The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) provides funds to create opportunities for youth ages 16-24 who are not working or in educational programs, otherwise known as out-of-school youth (OSY). Participation in WIOA programs can be low because of difficulties engaging OSY. The Idaho Workforce Development Council (WDC) partnered with Idaho Policy Institute (IPI) to identify creative and proven strategies to engage OSY. To do this, IPI reviewed existing literature and worked with regional representatives from the Idaho Department of Labor (IDOL) and educational institutions across the state to conduct focus groups and phone interviews with OSY recently engaged in WIOA programs.

The literature review found that successful programs help youth build relationships with supportive adults such as mentors or caseworkers, and other youth to foster a sense of belonging and community. Similarly, literature shows that OSY respond well to direct outreach from other youth or efforts designed by youth. Successful programs also offer unique education opportunities and partner with community organizations to recruit youth and create work experience opportunities.

Findings from interviews and focus groups align with themes found in the literature. Specific interview findings are listed below:

  • Learning opportunities should accommodate learning disabilities and mental health
  • Youth desire to learn job application, interview, and networking skills
  • Programs should have more community relationships to connect participants with work experiences closer to their desired area of interest
  • Youth appreciate caseworkers and would like a stronger relationship with them
  • Interviewees mostly heard about the program from family and friends
  • Youth recommend recruiting through social media with updated materials using empowering language and success stories
  • Satisfactory employment and financial stability are main motivators for participation
  • Youth value educational opportunities and the associated financial assistance


This report was prepared by Idaho Policy Institute at Boise State University and commissioned by Idaho Workforce Development Council.