The grant supports competency-based summer jobs that integrate work and learning for 1,200 vulnerable youth in seven communities: Chicago, Detroit, Hartford, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix/Maricopa County, and San Diego.
The Brandeis Center awarded grants ranging from $100,000 to $300,000 to government and nonprofit agencies in these communities to implement the program. Teenagers will work 120 hours over the summer at hundreds of worksites. Brandeis researchers provide technical assistance to grantees and monitor and evaluate the quality and impact of the programs.
In addition, the Brandeis Center will create a national dialogue on youth employability development by engaging employers from all sectors to focus on what a young person needs to know and do to enter and succeed in today’s workforce. It will also help empower students to effectively document and communicate their skills to meet employers’ needs.
Professor Susan P. Curnan, Director of the Center for Youth and Communities and study leader for many summer youth initiatives, underscores the power of a competency-based approach to youth employability development: “We describe our approach to the summer program as ‘100% work, 100% learning.’ Summers matter – over the long term, youth who participate in year-round programs or multiple summer experiences intentionally combining work, learning, and support can improve educational outcomes, are less likely to drop out, have less difficulty getting and keeping jobs, and have higher lifelong earnings than those who do not.”
Statistics show the urgency for support from organizations such as the Walmart Foundation. Low rates of high school graduation, high rates of children living in poverty, and low rates of youth employment make a compelling case for providing summer youth employment. Nationwide, the summer employment rate for 16-19 year olds fell from 51.7% in 2000 to about 33% in 2012 – a low not seen in more than 50 years.
At the same time, although unemployment is high, jobs are going unfilled. Employers cannot find enough workers with demonstrated workplace competencies (including basic academic, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills) to meet job demands.
“At Walmart, we recognize the need to support the next generation of our nation’s workforce,” said Julie Gehrki, senior director of the Walmart Foundation. “By working closely with the Heller School’s Center for Youth and Communities at Brandeis University, we are able to help provide youth access to job opportunities and skills training during the summer months so they can return to school more prepared for the future.”
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