Press Release: Preparing MA Youth for High-demand STEM Careers with $4.9 Million Grant

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Boston, MA (April 8, 2014) – The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded a $4.9 million grant to Jobs for the Future to expand STEM education and career pathways that prepare more low-income Massachusetts high school students for high-demand jobs with good wages and strong preparation for further education. 

The Massachusetts Advanced Pathways Program will help boost the skills of at least 1,650 students over four years in Marlborough, Brockton, and West Springfield. Focusing on information technology, advanced manufacturing, and health care, this grant will propel youth to high school graduation with meaningful work experience, at least 12 college credits toward a postsecondary credential, occupational training, intensive college and career counseling, and an industry-recognized and sought-after credential. 

The grant is one of 24 Youth CareerConnect awards, totaling $107 million, that President Obama announced yesterday to partnerships of school districts, community colleges, employers, and nonprofits to scale up innovative models across the country and better meet the demands of regional labor markets. 

“Roughly half of all Americans reach their mid-20s without the skills or credentials crucial for success,” said Jobs for the Future CEO Marlene Seltzer. “Our mission is to ensure that all young people, regardless of income, have the skills they need to succeed in today's economy,” Seltzer said. "JFF's work aligns beautifully with the goals of the President's Youth CareerConnect program, and we are thrilled to be a part of this important effort."

The Massachusetts program will build on JFF’s eight-state Pathways to Prosperity Network, a partnership with the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In each of these states, JFF and Harvard are guiding and supporting coalitions of K-12 and postsecondary educational institutions, Workforce Investment Boards, employers, state and local government, and other partnering organizations in building pathways based in comprehensive high schools or career academies within a high school. All pathways feature rigorous and integrated academic and career-focused education, a continuum of workplace learning opportunities, and comprehensive college and career guidance.

Nancy Hoffman, co-lead of Pathways to Prosperity and a JFF vice president, noted that postsecondary credentials are increasingly essential, but the traditional four-year college route right after high school is not possible or the best choice for everyone. “Many of today’s young people would be better off starting a career with a community college credential,” Hoffman said. “Pathways to Prosperity’s goal is to help students make a smooth transition from high school to community college and family-supporting careers—meeting the needs of regional employers and thus contributing to building the state’s economy.”

In Massachusetts, JFF will begin work immediately, collaborating with regional partners to expand programs in Marlborough and West Springfield in September 2014 and to plan and launch a new program in Brockton in September 2015. All programs will focus on industries that report difficulty finding workers with the specific skills they need, such as data security protocols, electronic medical records, and CNC machine operation.

  • In Marlborough, the STEM Early College High School at Marlborough High School (M-STEM) will work with area employers in manufacturing, information technology, and health care, including Marlborough Hospital. Partners are Framingham State University and the Partnership for a Skilled Workforce. About 40 percent of M-STEM students are from low-income families.
  • Brockton High School will work with regional health care employers to launch a health care academy. Partners are Massasoit Community College and the Brockton Area Workforce Investment Board. About 75 percent of Brockton High School students are from low-income families.
  • In Western Massachusetts, West Springfield High School will work with area manufacturing employers. Springfield Technical and Community College and the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County are partners. About 48 percent of West Springfield High School students from low-income families.

Amy Loyd, executive director of Pathways to Prosperity, said this work will serve as a model for communities across the country. “Our work will not only enrich the opportunities and outcomes for young people across Massachusetts, but will also serve as a springboard for scaling up our successes nationwide through the Pathways to Prosperity Network,” Loyd said. 

JFF will also participate in another Youth CareerConnect program, helping to shape work-based learning strategy and employer engagement for the Denver Public Schools. The district won a nearly $7 million Youth CareerConnect grant to create and expand STEM pathways in eight schools. JFF is already working with the district to create early college high schools with support from a federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant.

About Jobs for the Future
Jobs for the Future works with our partners to design and drive the adoption of innovative and scalable education and career pathways leading from college readiness to career advancement for those struggling to succeed in today’s economy. The organization strives to fulfill the promise that education and economic mobility in America is achieved for everyone. Jobs for the Future works to ensure that all lower-income young people and workers have the skills and credentials needed to succeed in our economy, by creating solutions that catalyze change in our education and workforce delivery systems.

 
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