There are many programs in the U.S. right now that are doing an amazing job helping young people from low-income, urban communities without a college degree find a place in today’s workforce.
To get a further look into the magic of their success in changing the lives of these 16-24-year-olds while preparing them for careers, America’s Promise Alliance researchers visited four of them: Café Momentum in Dallas, Per Scholas in the Bronx, Urban Alliance in Washington, DC, and Year Up in the Bay Area.
While exploring three specific areas — the role relationships play in these programs, how these programs work to foster relationships, and the role the relationships play in promoting successful job placement — researchers unveiled four major findings:
- Relationships come first. Each program places relationship-building between young people and program staff at the forefront of their models.
- Webs of support are integral to the program design. In each program, there’s more than just one adult focused on the young people’s well-being and development. They have what the researchers refers to as a web of support—a network of individuals that provides a young person with varying levels and types of support.
- Relationships endure and extend beyond the program. Each program fosters webs of support for their participants beyond the program.
- Relationship-building approaches differ depending on whom the program serves. Each program takes a different approach to relationship-building, depending on the needs and strengths of the young people they serve.
At Cafe Momentum, founder Chad Houser offers young people aged 15-19 years who were released from a Dallas County Juvenile the opportunity to apply for a one-year internship. During their time at Cafe Momentum, participants will have the support of a case manager, participate in structured hands-on training in all aspects of the restaurant business, and have the opportunity to apply to a restaurant externship. They also develop life skills training.
At Per Scholas, founders John Stookey and Lewis Miller, created an organization designed to “open doors to transformative technology careers for individuals from often overlooked communities.” Students can choose from one of six training tracks, all providing employable technology skills and leading to certifications that are aligned with employer demands: e.g., IT support, network engineering, cybersecurity, CodeBridge, IT engineering, or quality assurance. There is no cost to the students and all students receive all the necessary materials to complete the program.
At Urban Alliance, founder Andrew Plepler created a program where eligible low-income students undergo an intensive six-week training program for career management skill building and life skill building. They are then placed in a company that matches their interests and are given a mentor who works as a coach throughout their time there.
At Year Up, founder Gerald Chertavian created a program focused on technology training for tech-based jobs. During their five months with Year Up, students develop technical and professional skills in the classroom that they can apply during an internship at one of Year Up’s corporate partners. They also earn college credit in the process.
In the video above, America’s Promise Alliance talks with four participants from each program to tell their unique story of their challenges before entering each program and how they grew from their experience there. It’s amazing to see how each program not only gives them the technical skills they need to succeed but changes their mindset so they can learn to rely on others to help deal with the external forces that might otherwise keep them from succeeding.
The support that young people in these programs receive from the very beginning and even after they leave, is the most integral part of their success, the success of the programs, and for enriching our workforce with much needed talent.