New web portal connects youth, businesses

December 13, 2013 |

Many reports and studies show that the skills gap is increasing at a rapid pace. Thousands of positions go unfilled every day because of the lack of a skilled workforce.

Education requirements are also on the rise. A high school diploma alone may no longer lead to a successful, sustainable career. Educating our youth about careers and educational options is now more critical than ever, and one of the most impactful ways we can do this is to give them hands-on, work-based learning (WBL) experiences. (WBL helps youth acquire knowledge about careers and gain employment-related competencies in the workplace.)

And to do this, having the business community at the table is critical.

Just over a year ago, Youth Works formed a committee to get creative about engaging employers to provide WBL opportunities. This group soon realized that while there’s no shortage of students needing and wanting these experiences, there’s a significant lack of participating businesses. A major factor in this gap is that many employers don’t know where to go or who to contact to express their interest in providing WBL.

To respond to this need, the committee created the Youth Business Connector (YBC), a web portal that connects employers with educators to offer WBL experiences for Charlotte-Mecklenburg youth. Opportunities range from classroom speakers to internships and apprenticeships.

The YBC’s main objectives are to increase these opportunities for youth and streamline the process between employers and educators. Research shows that the more exposure youth have to careers, the better their chances of obtaining sustainable employment. It also allows them to make informed decisions about their education in preparation for their careers.

The YBC will officially launch in the first quarter of 2014. I’m excited about this new tool because of the positive impact it will have on our youth and the community. The YBC will also assist with fostering meaningful relationships between the public and private sectors that will benefit both businesses and youth. Developing a talented workforce requires the collective effort of all sectors and educational institutions. In order to compete globally, development of our local talent pipeline must be mastered. I’m hopeful that the YBC will aid in this development by increasing WBL opportunities that will educate and empower our youth.

I encourage all businesses and education partners to become members of the YBC to help grow Charlotte’s talent pipeline. Through relevant career education opportunities and experiences, our community will build a future qualified workforce – starting with our youth.