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Chicago high schools to participate in Obama Foundation-Urban Alliance ‘workforce readiness’ program
By Linda Jacobson
When he was in office, President Barack Obama signed the Work Innovation and Opportunities Act, which is intended to remove barriers to employment for disadvantaged in-school and out-of-school youth — and now his foundation is partnering with Urban Alliance to bring “workforce readiness training” and paid internships to high school students on Chicago’s South Side.
The Obama Youth Jobs Corps will include five training sessions in 10th grade, weekly job training sessions in 11th grade that include topics such as financial literacy and post-high school planning, and paid internships in 12th grade as part of Urban Alliance’s High School Internship Program. The Urban Alliance model includes additional training, one-on-one mentoring and other support services.
The program will begin at Hyde Park Academy High School, Kenwood Academy High School and Little Black Pearl Art & Design Academy, and it is expected to expand to additional schools in the 2018-19 school year. The Hyatt Hotels Foundation and the Pritzker Foundation are also supporting the effort, and Bank of America and Hyatt will serve as “job partners.”
Urban Alliance provides “workforce interventions” in Chicago, Baltimore, Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. A study released last summer by the Urban Institute showed that participating in the internship increased young men’s chances of attending college by 23% and increased by 18% the likelihood that students with a grade point average in the 2.0 to 3.0 range would attend a four-year college.
Attention to workforce preparation and stronger connections to industry partners has continued under President Donald Trump, who has expressed interest in expanding apprenticeship opportunities.
While many schools are increasing attention to career pathways and workforce readiness as part of the curriculum, it’s actual work experience that appears to contribute to higher earnings later, according to a recent study by researchers at Duke University, Pepperdine University and the University of Oklahoma. Based on data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth, conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the study showed that working while in high school, and then later in college, leads to higher wages than just accumulating more years of education.