“We have to begin to close the skills gap with youth, because it’s not going happen with our seasoned workers alone,” says Youth Works Director Danielle Frazier to describe the overall goal of the initiative’s new in-school program, set to launch with the 2013 – 2014 school year. “It’s about getting youth to see the opportunities that are available outside of the traditional two-year or four-year college track. College is not for everybody, so our goal is to provide work-based learning experiences for youth that will open up career opportunities in lucrative areas-in-demand, such as advanced manufacturing, that will, in turn, lead to sustainable employment.”
The program will target “opportunity” youth: juniors and seniors at four Charlotte-Mecklenburg high schools that have barriers to employment. It’s funded through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA); one-third of Charlotte Works’ WIA allocations must be directed to youth initiatives. Charlotte Works hosts a dedicated Youth Council to guide its activities in this area.
“We’ll engage juniors through career exposure such as job shadowing and internships. We’ll also engage seniors through work-based learning, remove barriers to graduation and then move them to a post-secondary component, whether it’s vocational training, the military, a two-year or four-year education and/or employment,” Frazier says. “Employment right out of high school is an option, but I the goal is to lead youth to careers and not just jobs.”
Components of the program will include
- leadership development;
- adult mentoring;
- summer youth employment;
- paid and unpaid work experience;
- supportive services such as transportation or paying fees to take the SAT or ACT;
- guidance counseling;
- alternative secondary schooling;
- occupational skills training;
- work tours;
- educational field trips;
- workshops on career readiness, soft skills, financial literacy and more; and
- a variety of follow-up services including career coaching, transportation assistance or regular contact with employers or post-secondary academic advisors.
While in-school programming is not new to Youth Works, this marks the first year the program will be directly managed by Charlotte Works. Last year’s program was run by Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont and the Urban League of Central Carolinas; between them, the two vendors served 60 youth.
“Our goal [in bringing the program in-house] was to have a closer relationship with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). We want to bridge the gap between K – 12 education and the workforce development system since they work hand-in-hand. Our hope is to provide our school partners with real-time industry data for our region and to assist them in educating our youth on not just two- and four-year educations, but also on the other educational options to narrow the skills gap,” says Frazier.
To manage the new program, Frazier has hired a program manager; she plans to onboard two career specialists and an intake specialist by the time it launches in early August.
In addition, Charlotte Works awarded a $150,000 grant to MeckEd, an independent, nonpartisan nonprofit and champion for excellent public education for all children in CMS, to focus on coordinating the work-based learning aspect of the program.
“MeckEd is honored to have an opportunity to collaborate with Charlotte Works through the WIA program and will add two new Career Pathways advisors who will be housed at Garinger and West Mecklenburg high schools for the 2013-14 school year. Our ultimate goal is to provide more students at these schools with relevant workplace learning opportunities while they are still in high school, which will ultimately result in post-secondary educational opportunities,” says Dr. Bill Anderson, MeckEd’s executive director. “MeckEd is convinced the traditional four-year, liberal arts college degree is good for many, but not all, and believes post-secondary training and educational opportunities will be essential for all high school graduates in the 21st-century workplace.”
Frazier says the new in-school program will begin to serve the 60 youth from last year’s program in early August and work with MeckEd to recruit an additional 75 students with a launch in September.
“It’s about giving youth a well-rounded perspective on education and career opportunities that are available so they can make informed decisions about their futures,” she notes.
Youth Works’ in-school program will be implemented at Garinger, Harding, Vance and West Mecklenburg high schools. If your child is enrolled at one of these pilot schools and you’re interested in learning if s/he is eligible to participate, leave a comment below and a member of the Youth Works staff will be in touch.