Workforce Development Programs: Training Scenarios & Best Practices

Workforce development programs provide great opportunities for Club youth to develop essential skills. Programs like CareerLaunch, Money Matters, and Junior Staff each help to prepare participants to graduate high school with a plan for the future.

As we continue to navigate a changing work environment, it’s highly likely that the measurable impact of these programs will continue to grow in Clubs across the country. To support that growth, it is important that staff are aware of the potential risks and consider best safety practices for operating workforce development programs.

Safety Risks
Below are some risks that are associated with workforce development programs:

  • Due to the young age of many people in workforce development programs, there is an increase in opportunities for peer-to-peer abuse and bullying incidents.
  • There is a risk that these young people won’t be able to appropriately manage behavior/supervise younger Club members due to their lack of training, skills and maturity.
  • If not run with strong policies and procedures, these programs could lead to a decrease in overall program quality and priority outcomes. This could lead to perception and reputational risk among parents/guardians, community members, school officials, board members, etc.
  • It is also possible that if someone in one of these programs has an injury while working, and has received any form of payment (t-shirts, lunch, field trips, gift cards, cash, etc.) a claim can potentially be filed against the Club’s workers’ compensation policy.

Considerations & Best Practices
In order to help mitigate these risks, below are a few things to consider:

  • Establish clear policies, expectations and eligibility requirements in order for a Club member to be a part of a workplace development program.
  • Invite parents to an orientation in order to share the goals and benefits of the program, and review rules and expectations.
  • Be mindful of workforce development program participants relationships with their peers and staff (i.e. young members having crushes, outside contact, social media, etc.)
  • Require potential candidates to complete an application in order to be considered.
  • Consider working with local volunteers to set-up mock interviews with all candidates to provide members with valuable experience and improve program quality/outcomes.
  • Require workforce development program participants to attend a mandatory training session appropriate to their role. Review policies and procedures and demonstrate their responsibilities for them in each program area.
  • It’s important to make sure that workforce development program participants are still subject to all Club rules, and to make clear that they are to set a positive example for other Club members.
  • Do not allow workforce development program participants to do the following:
    • Supervise programs/activities without Club staff present
    • Manage administrative tasks such as answering phones, checking members in/out, filing sensitive membership information, etc.
    • Have access to a set of keys, or enter any storage areas without staff supervision
  • Due to the fact that workforce development program participants are still Club members and youth, consider the following:
    • Do not allow staff to be alone with any workforce development program participant
    • Do not give them any preferential treatment as compared to their peers, as this may be perceived as favoritism
    • Even when short staffed, do not include them as staff within your ratio numbers

Training Scenarios
In order to give staff the opportunity to discuss, in a group, different situations they may find themselves in when working with workforce development programs, we have created a few training scenarios. During each scenario, we encourage you to discuss the questions below—feel free to adjust them to fit your Club programming.

  • Where is the risk?
  • What would you do different?
  • Where did the Clubs policies not meet practices?
  • How does this affect the safety & quality of programs?

Scenario #1: During an activity outside, a 7-year-old Club member asks if they can use the bathroom. Usually a staff will take a small group if needed, but the Club is short-staffed that day. The YDP has a Junior Staff escort the younger member to the bathroom and they come right back. Later that day, the 7-year-old member tells the YDP that the Junior Staff was saying inappropriate things to them, and felt they were looking at them use the bathroom. They feel uncomfortable and want to call home.

Scenario #2: As part of the CareerLaunch program, the Club arranges a college tour of a state university. The school is over 3-hours away, so staff organize a hotel to stay in overnight as part of the experience. All of the volunteer chaperones have completed the screening/orientation process, but one has to cancel at the last minute. Staff quickly find a former Club staff member who volunteers to fill-in. Because of time constraints, staff do not complete a background/reference check for this new volunteer before the trip, and they also do not review the Clubs updated Child Abuse Prevention policies with the volunteer. During the trip, staff notice the volunteer demonstrating red-flag behaviors such as gift giving, crude humor and quiet side conversations towards two teen members that make the staff feel uncomfortable.

Scenario #3: The Club assigns Junior Staff to assist staff during programs/activities. Staff are overseeing one Junior Staff running an activity they wanted to try. This Junior Staff is always good with younger kids and sets a good example. A few Club members are messing around while the rules of the game are being explained. Before staff could step-in, the Junior Staff snaps at the kids and yells at two boys to go sit-out. Later that evening, after one of the boys had left, the Club Director receives a call from an angry parent who thinks an older kid at the Club is bullying her son and that staff allowed it to happen.

Scenario #4: During Summer programming, the Club has a 16-year-old female Junior Staff member shadowing part-time Club staff in one age group. The Club Director begins to notice the Junior Staff member being overly playful and somewhat flirtatious with a 20-year-old male counselor on a regular basis. The Club Director chooses to meet with the counselor to provide coaching on how to redirect and ignore the behavior, and moves the Junior Staff to another age group. The concern appears to be resolved until the girl’s parents meet with the Club Director to let them know their daughter has been texting consistently with the 20-year-old staff member.