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Hypothesis: Employer Partnerships

October 6, 2020

Practices & Centers Topics

Strong Partnership with the Local Employer Community to Advance Opportunities for Work-Based Learning

Partnerships with employers are critical to providing work-based learning opportunities that lead to high-skill, high-demand jobs and family-sustaining careers. Employers have an impact on all points along the pathway, from shaping K-12 curricula and course selection to training and then hiring qualified job candidates. To ensure quality work-based learning, employers’ HR offices support the creation of a work environment that is welcoming for young people who are Black, Latinx, or experiencing poverty. Trained mentors reinforce and extend classroom learning. Educators and mentors collaborate to meet both youth and employer needs. An online platform links education and employer partners to speed up the sharing of information necessary for work-based learning placement and employer feedback about young people’s performance and progress. The intermediary collects and analyzes feedback to help all partners improve work-based learning experiences.

Spotlight: YouthForce NOLA

YouthForce NOLA coordinates with employers, high schools, and community-based organizations to provide nearly 800 New Orleans high school students with paid work-readiness training and paid internships through 200 regional employers. YouthForce NOLA collaborates with other local organizations, such as Greater New Orleans, Inc., a regional economic development organization, and Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans, to coordinate and centralize industry involvement and investment in work-based learning opportunities for youth. Young people gain real-world, work-based experience in the region’s fast-growing, high-wage industries. Participants also benefit from virtual training in essential professional skills, business etiquette, financial and digital literacies, and workplace rights and responsibilities. YouthForce NOLA interns’ stipends are made possible by the City of New Orleans.

Spotlight: CareerWise Colorado

CareerWise Colorado is an employer-facing and employer-driven intermediary. The organization has adapted the Swiss apprenticeship system to the business culture of the United States. In Switzerland, about 70 percent of 16-year-olds become apprentices. They spend two days a week at school and two to three days a week working and learning at an enterprise for three or four years. CareerWise Colorado trains and prepares young people for well-paying, entry-level positions in Colorado through apprenticeship. The program works with 120 employers and has created and launched more than 500 apprenticeships over four cohorts of high school students. CareerWise Colorado’s apprentices are representative of its partner school districts.

When working with employers, CareerWise Colorado describes its value proposition as follows: “Finding qualified early-career talent is increasingly expensive, competitive, and time-consuming. CareerWise Colorado provides a talent solution for companies of all industries and sizes.” It is important to note that while the organization has strong relationships with and recruits apprentices from multiple high schools, its goal is not to create career pathways; it aims to offer young people an option to fully combine school and work for students’ 11th, 12th, and 13th years. In fact, in the 13th year, participants are full-time apprentices and may also take college courses related to their work, for which their employers pay. This distinction is significant and shapes the way that CareerWise Colorado serves as the connection between high schools and industry.

The organization supports its employer partners in training supervisors and mentors and works with the apprentices to prepare them for success in a professional work environment. CareerWise Colorado also developed a sophisticated online apprentice marketplace so employers can easily post available apprenticeships and young people can find those opportunities. Youth apprenticeship is expanding in the United States and CareerWise is in high demand as other sites—such as Indiana, the District of Columbia, and HERE to HERE in New York City—learn from CareerWise Colorado’s experience and set up their own versions of youth apprenticeship.

Spotlight: Boys & Girls Club of Greater Memphis

Memphis is known as the “logistics capital of the northern hemisphere” because it is headquarters for FedEx and UPS, while other companies, including Williams Sonoma, Coca-Cola, Amazon, and Nike, have a major presence and distribute goods from the city. Memphis also has several major hospitals that serve not only southern Tennessee but the entire Mississippi Delta area.

While many employers prefer to recruit college interns, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Memphis has built relationships with several large companies that now offer paid work to high school seniors who trained with the organization. The organization’s Juice Plus+ Technical Training Center trains opportunity youth ages 16 to 24 and helps them begin promising careers. Although entry-level roles in logistics offer wages of only $12 per hour, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Memphis is responding to this challenge by offering training that leads to a certification in logistics, which allows young people to earn higher pay. The organization has piloted a hospital job shadow program with Methodist North Hospital, leveraging its relationship with the president of Methodist North, who is a member of the nonprofit’s board of directors. In addition to working with employers, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Memphis provides youth with certifications in logistics, automotive, culinary, welding, and IT. These credentials have strong reputations with employers in the region.

Spotlight: HERE to HERE

The HERE to HERE Business Council is a group of CEOs and chief human resources officers from leading NYC employers who come together around a shared commitment to youth talent development. The Business Council was launched in part to support business leaders in ensuring that their hiring practices, including job descriptions and credential requirements, are fully accessible to students from the City University of New York (CUNY) programs and local public high schools. The Business Council also examines business practices and represents employers’ point of view to CUNY and the New York City Department of Education.

In August of 2020, The HERE to HERE Business Council was absorbed by the newly launched NYC Jobs CEO Council with CEOs from 27 of the largest employers in the New York area. This new results-oriented, CEO-led coalition will collaborate with educational institutions, community organizations, and nonprofits to hire skilled workers, meet employer needs, and connect New Yorkers—with a focus on Black, Latinx, and Asian communities and communities with lower incomes—with the skills they need for the workplace today and in the future. The member organizations aim to hire 100,000 traditionally underserved New Yorkers by 2030, including providing job opportunities and apprenticeships for 25,000 CUNY students.

HERE to HERE also helped found the employer-led, student-centered, Bronx Private Industry Council (PIC) “to develop a more prepared workforce and a deep base of local talent from which employers can recruit.” The Bronx PIC provides youth with paid opportunities to work with professionals to solve real-world business problems. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bronx PIC is shifting from a dues-paying model to an advisory council.

Click on the icons below to learn about the other five hypotheses and read spotlights that illustrate how the Building Equitable Pathways partners took on this work. The spotlights are intended to show theory in action and to support new intermediaries as they tackle the challenge of building equitable pathways that promote young people’s college and career success.

K-12 Partnerships

Strong partnership and alignment with local K-12 schools and districts

Postsecondary Partnerships

Strong partnership and alignment with local postsecondary institutions

Alignment with Labor Market Demands

Articulated paths aligned to local labor market demands


Sustainable business model


Policy agenda and supporting strategies


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