Youth Employment Matters!
Guest Blogger: Wendy-Ann Dixon-DuBois, Director of Communications, Urban Alliance
While employment rates nationally may have seen a recent uptick, the employment rate for teens is at a historic low, with fewer than 25% of youth ages 16-19 currently employed. On Friday October 3rd Urban Alliance and US Chamber of Commerce Foundation cast a spotlight on these dismal rates and offered solutions for improvement at the forum Youth Employment Matters!, which summoned the business sector to get involved and take an active role in providing work experiences for youth, particularly those in under-served communities.
The event opened with welcoming remarks from John McKernon, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Eshauna Smith, CEO of Urban Alliance. Deloitte Financial Advisory Services CEO David Williams took the stage and sparked a dialogue both in the room and on Twitter with his passion for closing the skills gap and call to action to other corporations to work in partnership with nonprofit organizations to facilitate upward mobility for youth. The pinnacle of the forum was a speech and introduction by Urban Alliance DC Executive Director Nathaniel Cole and Morehouse College student Johnathan Hill, both young black men from DC who participated in multiple internships through Urban Alliance.
Special guest speaker Vice President Joe Biden provided information about large-scale government economic policy while highlighting Urban Alliance’s role as a program that provides great results for youth and a scalable model that can be amplified across the country. Building on this theme, Melody Barnes, former White House Domestic Policy Advisor, noted:
“We have to stop looking at this as a program by program solution. We have to think about how these programs work together and how to leverage them in a larger system so we can get to scale because we are talking about at least 6.7 million people and many more we can also bring into our workforce.”
Urban Alliance and The Community Foundation are actively working towards this type of coordinated approach. For the past two years, staff from both organizations have been active members of the Raise DC Youth Employment Change Network, a coalition of DC nonprofits, schools, private businesses, and public agencies collaborating to support policies and programs that will enable more young people in the District to obtain meaningful work experience, build skills, and advance their education and careers.
Urban Alliance’s work is made possible in part by a recent grant award from the CityCenterDC Opportunity Fund. Hines, a privately-owned real estate firm involved in real estate investment, development and property management worldwide, is the development sponsor for CityCenterDC, a 2.0 million square foot mixed-use development underway in the heart of downtown DC. In late 2013, Hines partnered with The Community Foundation to award $200,000 in funding to four local nonprofits to support their job training and workforce readiness efforts in the neighborhoods surrounding CityCenterDC, including Urban Alliance.
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