About this Toolkit

About the Toolkit


Generation Alpha and Z have survived economic recessions, political turmoil, school and environmental threats, and other traumas.  This generation has grit, resiliency, and skepticism about the way the world works that makes them a resilient generation and solution-seekers to our most vexing challenges.

Through tools, articles, and current examples, this E.M.P.O.W.E.R. Youth Toolkit can help staff and policymakers bolster young people’s interest in local government. ILG developed this resource with input from youth, elected officials, youth development practitioners, local agency staff, marketing professionals, and educators. The E.M.P.O.W.E.R approach stands for:

  • Educate
  • Motivate 
  • Promote
  • Optimize
  • Work
  • Engage
  • Respect

Successfully empowering young people to participate in local government can change the way our democracy works for an entire generation of people. It can increase public participation by youth in civic activities and ensure that the demographics of people working in cities, counties, and special districts better reflect the communities they serve. 

Through this toolkit, ILG seeks to help local government better communicate with youth about job, volunteer & civic opportunities that will help advance democracy, increase equity and expand civic engagement.  

About Youth

Today’s youth are facing a wide range of challenges and opportunities different than those of previous generations. Many young people experience housing, food and income insecurity. Their neighborhoods, schools and public environments may not be safe or accessible.  They may face discrimination or lack of access to culturally-competent health services. Or they may be unsure about where and how they will safely attend their school or connect with peers or caring adults during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our society continues to face challenges in achieving racial, gender and socioeconomic equity, as the impacts of the murder of George Floyd and the COVID-19 pandemic linger. Young people are important drivers of equity, and their voices must be prioritized by government agencies. 

New tools for communication have also created new ways for youth to connect and become advocates that did not exist five years ago. These new advocacy venues have activated many young people, but the platforms also complicate the flow of information and the credibility of sources. Young people are saturated with information and misinformation. 

In historically under-invested communities, many residents also experience lingering mistrust of the government. Many youth do not fully understand the role of local government. Young people may not understand how they can be involved civically or that there are fulfilling and well-paying job opportunities at their city, county or special district agencies.

“Cities, towns, counties, and special districts across the state are experiencing persistent challenges attracting and retaining qualified employees.” The baby-boomer “retirement wave” is here. In April 2017, the City of Los Angeles reported that over 40% of its 45,000 employees would be eligible for retirement by 2018.

Source: Cal-ICMA Talent Initiative 2.0 Report

Many local government staff do not understand how to communicate and engage with young people. Most agencies do not seek out youth as a key demographic to be engaged in decision-making or to consider youth as their future workforce.


The adversity youth face presents a real opportunity for generational resilience and innovation. Resilience and innovation are two hallmarks of local government agencies through the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. To tap into the dynamic energy and grit of these talented stewards, local governments can employ a two-part strategy to connect with youth:

  1. Inform, engage and empower youth to participate in local government activities, like youth taskforces and commissions
  2. Encourage youth to experience local government from within through workforce development programs that highlight careers in public service

Local agencies must actively seek out youth voices to participate in program development, community visioning, needs assessments and decision-making. Youth input will help improve the long-term effectiveness and relevance of programs and services and help advance equity for all community members.

Knowing about, and accessing, stable public sector employment is one approach to economic equity. Cities, counties and special districts can develop programs that provide opportunities leading youth to access fulfilling and available public sector jobs. Local programs can support youth in developing skills, knowledge and confidence to effectively participate in civic affairs.

With flexibility and creativity, public sector employers can address their own growing needs for a qualified workforce of the future by cultivating talent in diverse and underrepresented communities.

This toolkit presents a wide range of opportunities to change how youth learn about the public sector and their role in transforming community.