Hundreds of New Orleans students graduate from high school every year. But what next? Research shows too many don't have the skills needed to get or keep a job-especially in the skilled crafts, health sciences, and creative/tech industries that will becoming available in our region over the next ten years.
That's where YouthForce NOLA (YFN) is playing a vital role. Next month, with more than $9 million of funding commitments, this education, business, and civic partnership, is launching a new career readiness initiative to help better prepare and connect New Orleans students to career pathways in high-wage, high-skill, high demand fields. By providing grant funding and technical assistance to high schools, combined with industry exposure and preparation for students, YFN's approach creates a demand-driven career readiness model designed to connect New Orleans students with regional economic opportunity.
Todd Battiste, vice president, Education/Children & Families, United Way of Southeast Louisiana says, "The opportunity to increase graduation rates by offering students career pathways with certifications to high wage, high skill, high demands fields, aligns with United Way's new poverty reduction strategy, Blueprint for Prosperity."
YFN will provide 70 student internships in the targeted high-wage, high-growth industries, providing professionalism training and on the job experience. YFN aims to grow the internship program such that 10% of the graduating class of 2020 (and approximately 1,200 students total over the next five years) will successfully complete a YouthForce internship.
"New Orleans public high school students are incredibly talented, and are more academically prepared than ever. Each of the twelve organizations that comprise the YouthForce NOLA partnership is committed to preparing our young people with the real-world skills and connecting them to economic opportunity," says Leslie Jacobs, Founder of Educate Now!, which serves as the convener of YouthForce NOLA. "We are grateful to Bloomberg Philanthropies, JPMorgan Chase, and our other philanthropic partners for their belief in our young people and this important work."
United Way of Southeast Louisiana President and CEO Michael Williamson says, "Our United Way is proud to be one of the inaugural partners of Youth Force NOLA. Addressing poverty by creating career pathways for our high school age youth is strategic and doable. And, by joining Leslie Jacobs, Educate NOW! and the "Avenger-like" cast of education superheroes she has assembled, I am confident that we will continue to move the needle on New Orleans high school graduation rates and youth that obtain certifications to work in high demand fields."
Launched in 2015, the YouthForce NOLA Partner Steering Committee includes Baptist Community Ministries; the City of New Orleans; Educate Now!; GNO, Inc.; JPMorgan Chase; Juma Ventures; Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans; Louisiana Recovery School District; New Schools for New Orleans; Orleans Parish School Board; United Way of Southeast Louisiana; and Urban League of Greater New Orleans. YFN to date has received funding commitments from Baptist Community Ministries, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Chevron, The City of New Orleans, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Leslie Jacobs, the Louisiana Department of Education, Stephen Rosenthal, United Way of Southeast LA, and W. K. Kellogg Foundation.