Obama Youth Jobs Corps

"We have been very fortunate, the Obama Foundation to now be partnering with the Urban Alliance in Chicago for the past five years. We have created opportunities for young people to get job skills training, to get paid internships, to get a sense of what it’s like to pursue professions that they might not have previously imagined." - President Barack Obama

In partnership with the Obama Foundation, Urban Alliance created the Obama Youth Jobs Corps (OYJC) to increase access to economic opportunities for Chicago high school students. Since launching OYJC in 2017, Urban Alliance has provided more than 1,700 10th and 11th graders from Chicago Public School students with job skills training and an additional 650 12th graders with intensive workforce readiness training and paid internship experience at businesses throughout the city. 

In October 2022, Urban Alliance announced that it will expand to an additional 4,500 more young people across 10 Chicago public schools.

What is OYJC?

Workforce Readiness Training
10th Grade

Workforce Readiness Training

OYJC begins with eight workforce readiness training sessions throughout the 10th grade year to lay the groundwork for future professional development.

Weekly Workforce Development
11th Grade

Weekly Workforce Development

OYJC offers weekly job skills training sessions in the 11th grade year, delving deeply into professional development, financial literacy, and post-high-school planning, and provides students with increased exposure to the professional world.

Paid, Professional Internship
12th Grade

Paid, Professional Internship

OYJC culminates in 10-month, paid, professional internships in the 12th grade year through UA’s flagship High School Internship Program, which combines work experience with job skills training, one-on-one mentoring, and comprehensive support services during and after the internship.

Who can apply for OYJC?

Sophomores: Students are eligible to attend up to five workforce readiness training sessions during their sophomore year of high school if they attend one of our current partner schools on the South Side (Little Black Pearl, Hyde Park Academy, and Kenwood Academy). There is no additional criteria for 10th grade participants.

Juniors: Students are eligible for OYJC’s paid, weekly workforce readiness training program in their junior year of high school if they a) are students at our current partner schools on the South Side (Little Black Pearl, Hyde Park Academy, and Kenwood Academy), b) have at least a 2.5-3.5 GPA and a strong attendance record, c) are on track to graduate, and d) able to attend trainings two days/week (total of 3 hours/week).

Seniors: Students are eligible to apply for OYJC’s paid internships in their senior year of high school if they are a) students at a UA partner school, b) currently in their junior year of high school, c) on track to graduate in June 2019 with at least a 2.5 GPA, and d) authorized for an off-campus/early release schedule. (Note: Juniors already enrolled in OYJC are eligible for the senior-year program based on positive performance in OYJC and approval of the Program Manager.)

How is OYJC different from the services UA already provides in Chicago?

Since 2012, Urban Alliance has partnered with some of Chicago’s leading businesses to provide paid, professional internships to high school seniors through its signature High School Internship Program. The program provides: 1) six weeks of pre-employment professional development; 2) a 10-month, paid, professional internship; 3) weekly job and life skills training; 4) mentoring from two caring adults; and 5) ongoing post-program support.

OYJC starts the training process earlier, providing workforce readiness training beginning in students’ sophomore year of high school. It provides a more intensive professional development experience, more fully preparing students for both a senior-year internship and the workforce.

How can businesses become job partners for OYJC students?

Businesses interested in providing internships for OYJC students should contact the Urban Alliance team.

Why did UA decide to partner with the Obama Foundation?

Our goal is always to provide more students with access to economic opportunity. A partnership with the Obama Foundation is the best way to provide more young people with early, meaningful work experience and training. Our mission aligns perfectly with the Obama Foundation’s commitment to the local community, and their goal of equipping young leaders with the tools needed to create positive change in their communities.

How will OYJC directly impact the South Side community?

Young people on the South Side of Chicago lack the same opportunities as their counterparts in more affluent areas of the city. Jobs in Chicago are heavily concentrated in The Loop – the city’s central financial district – as well as in affluent suburbs in the North and West sides. A recent report found that jobs per community on the North Side range from 10,000 – 30,000 while no community further south than Hyde Park has more than 6,700 jobs. Thirteen South Side communities have fewer than half that number of jobs. OYJC will start young people on a path toward economic success early – training them in essential job skills, giving them early exposure to professional workplaces, and helping them plan for lifelong economic advancement.

In recent years, Urban Alliance has recognized the need to connect with youth earlier in their high school careers as part of a broader strategy to prevent disengagement from successful career or college pathways among communities that lack adequate resources. The most successful programs include paid, work-based learning; mentoring from an adult professional; youth-centered support, and at least one year of follow-up services. Few programs encompass all of these elements – but Urban Alliance provides the full complement.

OYJC will work with businesses throughout Chicago to encourage increased investment in the city’s youth. Increased economic opportunity on the South Side will help lift everyone – ensuring a strong, educated, diverse new generation of workers to fill the jobs of the future. OYJC will complement the jobs coming to the South Side as part of the new Obama Presidential Center by preparing the next generation of local talent to succeed in a 21st century workforce.

Why should your business become an OYJC job partner?

Bank of America, Hyatt, and KPMG signed on as signature job partners for Obama Youth Jobs Corps youth, and your company can join them.

Early employment is proven to change the life trajectories of young people at heightened risk of disconnection, increasing their desire to succeed in school and the workforce. Urban Alliance is the connection between students, schools, and employers to increase young people’s access to economic opportunity. Our public and private partners have leveraged their strategic partnerships with Urban Alliance to change the life trajectories of thousands of young people, while generating benefits for their businesses.

Through partnership, companies can:

  • Increase diversity of both personnel and thought
  • Meaningfully engage with the community
  • Establish a local talent pipeline
  • Boost employee morale and retention
  • Augment marketing through meaningful corporate social responsibility
  • Increase capacity and productivity through intern support without the added burden of creating an internal internship program structure
  • Provide emerging leaders with management experience by supervising interns

Get Involved 

Interested in becoming a job partner? Get in touch.