YouthForce NOLA: Real-World Skills for Real-Life Success
Cate Swinburn, YouthForce NOLA
YouthForce NOLA (YouthForce) serves as a system-wide intermediary for a collaborative effort to improve economic opportunity for students from low-income families in New Orleans by building career pathways so public school graduates can secure jobs and advance in high-wage, high-demand fields after high school. YouthForce NOLA’s model is designed to be scalable, replicable and drive lasting academic, workforce, and economic outcomes for participants. While it operates in the unique context where New Orleans public schools are becoming the first major all-charter urban school district, YouthForce’s lessons are applicable in any school district, particularly urban districts with significant populations of students of color and students who are considered economically disadvantaged.
YouthForce serves as the connective tissue between and around four primary populations:
- students attending open enrollment high schools in New Orleans (and their families),
- educators and school leaders in open enrollment public schools,
- hiring managers and Human Resources professionals at regional companies, and
- technical training provider leaders – both higher education and third-party organizations.
The youth we serve are in-school (usually in high school, although we are increasingly developing career exploration activities for middle school students), typically low-income youth of color, and seeking an awareness of, skill-building for, and connections to good jobs and economic opportunity. The educators we serve gain an understanding of the regional economy and career readiness efforts, develop capacity to offer programming, and partner with employers and training providers to better serve students. The 150+ employer partners engaged with YouthForce re-imagine their recruitment and training strategies for entry-level employees, and ultimately expand their talent pipelines. Our growing portfolio of training provider partners seek connections to schools and students, employer connectivity, and technical assistance (ranging from education landscape context to business planning and fundraising support).
YouthForce is currently on track to achieve its three initial five-year goals:
- 10% of graduating students in the Class of 2020 from open-enrollment New Orleans public high schools complete a YouthForce Internship and gain meaningful work experience.
- 20% of the Class of 2020 earn an industry-recognized credential that places them on high-wage, high-demand regional career pathways.
- Citywide, more students demonstrate employer validated, career-ready soft skills.
As YouthForce looks toward the future, the goals of improved outcomes for our graduates remain, and the strategy has taken a more holistic and targeted approach, looking at overall student readiness, with a deepened commitment to overlapping goals, adding in a post-graduate program, and career connection services. With an expanded network of youth and job success collaborators, YouthForce is making an explicit commitment to ensuring and tracking post-graduate success. Of particular note is the development of a post-graduation, or bridge, year of programming for students, which blends high quality post-secondary in-school learning with work-based, real-world learning, bridging the college divide and positioning students for post-secondary, career, and life success.
- Department of Education launches high school fifth-year pilot program (Business Report) Link
- Report Offer Equity Lessons Learned from CTE Programs (Campus Technology) Link
- Preparing Young People for Tomorrow’s World of Work Today (Getting Smart) Link
- Dobard: How 3 Key Forces – Regulators, Innovators & Collaborators – Are Driving Stronger Outcomes for New Orleans Students (The 74) Link
PATHWAY 2 TOMORROW
Pathway 2 Tomorrow: Local Visions for America’s Future (P2T) matches responsive and agile education policy solutions with the needs of states and local communities.
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