What does it take to guarantee that the next generation of future leaders are prepared, inspired, and primed for success?
The question may appear straightforward, but the solutions themselves are layered and require the support, collaboration, and investment of many stakeholders. While there is no particular pathway to success, the key is to begin building the talent pipeline early—when students are still in high school.
NAF academies bring together educators, business, and community leaders to transform the high school experience. They are small, focused learning communities that enhance public high schools and focus on one of five career themes in growing industries: finance, hospitality and tourism, information technology, engineering, and health sciences.
The results speak for themselves: Recent reports show that students in NAF academies are graduating high school at rates up to 10 percent higher than non-NAF students.
Prioritizing Paid Internships for All High School Students
There are millions of students across the country who could benefit from the real-world experience of work. Yet students growing up in low-income communities have a few different challenges to interning. First, they cannot afford to spend time working without being paid, or they have difficulties finding access to transportation.
Additionally, they rarely have connections to the mentors, corporate social networks, and other resources that often serve as the source of these internship opportunities.
That’s why NAF launched NAF Future Ready Labs, a strategic structure to scale paid internship experiences. The Labs make it easy for companies to play an active role in building the talent pipeline and help support the goal of reaching 100 percent internships for all high school students across the nation.
By providing a strategic structure to successfully scale paid internship experiences, NAF helps companies offer opportunities to more students while addressing the challenges they may face in providing internship opportunities – be it location, supervision, project management, or even a human resource challenge. This structure includes time for group projects as well as one-on-one mentoring, creating more flexibility for business partner involvement.
See NAF students in action at our NAF Future Ready Lab powered by Capital One in Dallas, Texas.
Taking it to the Next Level with Industry-Recognized Certification
We’ve learned that combining curriculum and internships is even more powerful when it leads to an industry-recognized credential, providing students a foothold in life after high school.
Through NAFTrack Certified Hiring, some of America’s top companies give special consideration to college students and future job applicants who have completed the NAF course of study and graduated from high school having earned NAFTrack Certification.
Benefits of this program include pre-interview and resume support, and access to paid college internships. The list now includes 15 of the top national and global companies, including Verizon, SAP North America, KPMG, and more.
Securing “All-In” Engagement and Participation from Business and Education
As the recent America’s Promise report, Our Work: A Framework for Accelerating Progress for Children and Youth in America demonstrates, more young people need access to clear and connected pathways through education and into the workforce.
While NAF academies are a great example of these pathways, it is important to remember that we cannot create them without the support of the business community. One of the greatest truths is that together, we can achieve more, and make the promise of a better life a reality for all young people.
When education and business work together, it is possible to close the skills gap and increase academic achievement with real world integration. Together, we can truly transform the high school experience and with it, prime our future leaders to compete in a global marketplace.
This story is part of the #Recommit2Kids campaign, marking the 20th anniversary of America’s Promise Alliance and calling the nation to recommit to action on behalf of children and youth.