Youth Employment Programs Build the Future Talent Pipeline and Lead Youth to Future Success

Alex B. Johnson

The experiences of organizations working with Capital Workforce Partners (CWP) exemplify how a focus on youth employment has a lasting, positive impact on the lives of young people, as evidenced in the Capitol Region of Connecticut. That’s why CWP Is partnering with America’s Promise Alliance to host the Northeast Youth Employment Conference. As a part of America’s Promise Alliance’s youth employment campaign, the YES Project, CWP will convene and engage stakeholders and youth leaders from Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Hartford, and other Connecticut cities to present on-the-ground examples of successful youth opportunity programs. CWP is the North Central Region of Connecticut’s premier workforce development organization, with a statewide reach in helping businesses find, retain and grow the most qualified talent. One of CWP’s priorities is supporting a variety of youth employment programs, like the ones we’ll be spotlighting at this week’s action roundtable, which provided over 2,000 young people in the region in this past year with future workforce development services.

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Youth Programs

One such example of a positive youth employment program, came through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which allocates WIOA Youth funds to CWP to support youth employment programs in the region to provide skills training, support services and job placement. Several local programs provide WIOA Youth Employment supports including Our Piece of the Pie in Hartford, CT.

youth Shantal Miller is a Hartford youth who participated in the Our Piece of the Pie (OPP) program, and their Pathways to Careers Initiative Allied Health program. As part of the OPP program Shantel enrolled at Asnuntuck Community College (ACC) and has been a rising star in their medical assisting program. Shantel shared that she is “thankful that OPP provided guidance and counseling, career competency development training, transportation, books, supplies, paid externship, tutoring, customer service, and CPR training”, which all accounted for her success. She completed her externship at Saint Francis Occupational Health, and she successfully obtained her medical gradassisting certificate at the end of 2018, and is continuing her education at Asnuntuck to obtain her phlebotomy certification and associates degree in medical assisting. Her long-term career goal is to become a registered nursing assistant.

Shantel is one example of thousands of youth and young adults that benefit significantly from youth employment programming.

Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program (SYELP)

Other positive results of summer youth employment programs included a special pilot Summer Bridge Program in Hartford, Connecticut this year. The Summer Bridge Initiative led by Mayor Luke Bronin, Superintendent Leslie Rodriguez Torres and Alex Johnson, CEO & President of CWP, supported incoming ninth graders with attendance challenges to gain additional educational supports linked to summer youth employment experiences, supporting their readiness for high school and future success. One of the organizations supporting the Summer Bridge Program was the Blue Hills Civic Association, which facilitated instruction and programming for 40 Summer Bridge scholars at the University High School of Science and Engineering in project-based experiences, career exploration and competency development. The testimonials from the students and staff tells the rest of the story:

Student Testimonials:

This program has given me a great boost in my math and algebra skills. It is opening me up to new people and the chance to even get a good start on opening a bank account.”

Noble Moody, Classical Magnet High School

This program has taught me how to think about different aspects in life, how to make good decisions and how to handle different situations.

— Shanine Smellie, East Windsor High School

I have become a better learner and listener, I learned how to communicate better with others, and I learned how to work through my issues in a positive way!”

— Trinity Greene, A. I. Prince Technical High School

Behavioral Staff Testimonial:

During my interactions as a counselor, I can tell that the students want to be here. They are good youth that work hard and with the mindful planning of staff, the afternoons are more interactive so the students can play hard as well.”

Doug Howard, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School

Over 250 incoming 9th grade students participated in the Summer Bridge program which will be replicated and expanded for next year. Altogether about 1500 young people participated in this year’s CWP SYELP program, which ranged from grades 9 through 12, and also included a number of Opportunity Youth. Substantial funding was provided by the State of Connecticut, City of Hartford and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and other public/private supports. CWP has a complement of career competency standards that all programs apply to their program design.

Hartford Student Internship Program

The Hartford Internship Program (HSIP) is another example of a youth employment program, which is school year program in Hartford that links high school academic and career development competencies through career competency workshops and external internship experiences. About 200 Hartford students participated in the HSIP program this past year, which is also linked to SYELP activities, and provides a year-round experience for youth.

One of the successful students, Casey Hill (UHSSE ’18) participated in both the Hartford Student Internship program after school and the subsequent Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program through the Center for Latino Progress. Casey developed an interest in the mechanical field, but had never truly had a hands-on experience resembling engineering or as he says “taking things apart and finding out how they work to make them better.” Thanks to HSIP, he was matched with New England Restorative Technologies, where he not only used his talents and fostered his passion for mechanical work, he also put them to good use in restoring medical equipment for the less fortunate. “I never really realized just how many people struggle with handicaps to their day to day life. Seeing someone take the motorized scooter that I fixed myself after working so hard on it and knowing that would change their life was one of the best moments in my life.” Casey learned how he can put his work in service to those who need it; and his mentor, Mr. Don Hoerman, also taught him values of hard work, which Casey took to heart. He completed his hours in record time.

Student working"The program allowed me to get ahead and develop into a better person and have the confidence to go look for a job". He used HSIP as a springboard to obtain employment at the Home Depot for the Summer. At the end of the school year, the opportunity came to take things to the next level. Through SYELP and the experience and confidence he had obtained thanks to HSIP, Casey secured an internship at Cesar’s Foreign Car, a mechanic in Hartford. These experiences helped cement Casey’s interest in mechanical engineering, a passion he has had since growing up. This program allowed him to surround himself with mentors in his chosen field and to get paid for doing the work he always wanted to do.

Casey is currently attending the University of Hartford for Electromechanical Engineering and hopes to use this degree to get a job doing what he does best: “taking things apart and finding out how they work to make them better.”

These youth employment programs make a major difference in the future success of young people, yet unfortunately we have thousands of young people who are on waiting lists for youth employment opportunities who cannot be served. We fully agree with the America’s Promise YES Project in encouraging a broader set of supports for these valuable youth employment programs.