Types of Partners
- Nonprofit community-based organizations
- High schools, technical schools, community colleges, colleges and universities
- Faith-based organizations
- Government entities, such as workforce investment boards
No matter what type of talent pipeline you’re interested in pursuing with Opportunity Youth, training providers can help you reach your business goals. However big or small your initiative partner organizations can provide invaluable support and expertise in making your efforts a success.
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This person will be responsible for leading the communications efforts with your partner organization.
Before choosing a partner, identify the high-level goals you hope to achieve with your collaboration. These goals will help you recognize differences early in the relationship and develop strategies to help the partnership to thrive.
This will partially depend on the pathway you choose. For example, do you want a partner organization that has particular experience with building large-scale internship initiatives? Do you seek a partner that already has an established skills development training pipeline for Opportunity Youth?
You are about to enter a relationship, and that means being prepared to give and take. Think about what you are willing to bring to this collaboration and anticipate what your partner will need. This might include access to youth, financial resources and public-relations expertise.
"Our role is to provide practical solutions, innovative thinking and sound management. Our partners bring a wide range of differing skills and experience that complements our own contribution."
- Corporate Leader
Does the organization’s mission align with your goals? Does its field of expertise complement your own (or could it help you fill a void in your own company)? Does it have the capacity to support you program’s goals?
For example, in some internship programs, a nonprofit can act as a bridge between the employer, the school and the Opportunity Youth. Different types of potential partnerships are listed here.
Many national community organization such as Year Up, Genesys Works, Urban Alliance and others are committed to providing young adults with the support they need to reach their employment potential. These organizations have multiple outposts around the country.
Partnering with an established organization that has worked with many large corporations will offer a track record of success. But your partner doesn’t have to be a big, national organization. A smaller, local nonprofit may be a better match, depending on your company’s priorities.
Learn and Earn partnerships include employers partnering with education providers, such as high schools or postsecondary education institutions. A Learn and Earn partnership with a high school provides at-risk young adults with a paycheck and a high school degree while the employer prepares its future pipeline of workers. Southwire Company’s 12 for Life program is the perfect example.
In addition, Learn and Earn partnerships include collaborations between employers and postsecondary institutions, such as community colleges, to develop real-world training programs for current employees- many of whom have to work while they complete their education. These employees have the opportunity to gain tangible skills while earning a degree or credential.
Faith-based organizations are the core of the community in many cities and provide a variety of social services such as job training and counseling. They offer employers access to a diverse mix of young untapped talent. Many faith-based entities nurture core values of self-reliance and active citizenship—traits that benefit promising talent for employers as well as effective partnerships.
Many government organizations focus on Opportunity Youth outreach. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Corps, for example, helps young people ages 16 through 24 with technical and academic training, serving 60,000 students at 125 centers across the country in fields ranging from construction to hospitality to information technology. Job Corps offers companies screening of eligible employees.
Your company is investing time and money when collaborating with a partner, so understanding its bandwidth is critical. Will your partner deliver on its share of your collaboration? Will your partner grow with you? Make sure the answers are yes.
Your company’s reputation is on the line, so do your homework. Just as you would with any collaboration, ask lots of questions and check references (e.g., Have your top candidates worked with other businesses? What was their success rate?) Search the Partner Directory for organizations that have experience working with employers.
"Work with a specialist! They’re the experts. They’ll support your company throughout the mentoring program. They’re someone you can lean on."
- Corporate Partner
Now it’s time to build a trusting, effective relationship with your partner. This is the phase in which you align your goals with your partner’s, work through any differences and, together, lay plans for realizing your initiative.
This is the most critical stage of your partnership. Open communication about objectives and capabilities is critical to a successful collaboration. Make sure to document everything in writing.
As you develop your relationship, keep in mind that the most sustainable partnerships serve both business and social needs.
Take the time to understand what your partner expects from you and vice versa. To provide accountability, put each partner’s roles and responsibilities in writing for easy reference along the way. And, identify a company strength that you can bring to the collaboration, such as graphic designers to create brochures or media contacts to spread the word about your initiative.
Know your partner’s business fluency up front. When developing your partnership, be open and transparent about language and terminology—and ask the same of your partner. Many nonprofits have made strides to learn business language in order to build stronger cross-sector collaborations. But others have not—which doesn’t mean they won’t make great partners.
Trust is something that builds over time, but you should have a baseline of trust in your partner before moving forward with implementation. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions around topics such as budgets and resources. Speak up about differences and work together to resolve them.
“Trust level must be created before any programming begins and then it builds through the due-diligence of the parties.”
– Corporate Leader
For both parties, having a clear understanding of the partnership’s duration is paramount. Your timeline should include:
Discuss how things are going with your partner, take and provide feedback, and implement suggestions that will help you reach your goals more effectively. Common misunderstandings often have to do with capacity, roles and work culture. Address these issues upfront.
Ideally, measuring the success of your partnership will involve both quantitative and qualitative measurements. While you will definitely be measuring the success of your company’s specific initiative (internships, mentoring, school-to-work or hiring) evaluating your partnership on its own terms will also help you meet your goals. Ultimately, each company will want to measure its ROI.
Partnerships should be evaluated on a regular basis (at least annually) to make sure common goals are being met and discuss possible improvements.
Checklist: What might success look like?
Any evaluation of your partnership must occur in tandem with an evaluation of your initiative. If you’re ready to grow your program, for example, you will have to assess whether your partner has the capacity to grow with you. Your partner can also help you define what growth could mean for your company.