CareerReady ATL: Providing Real Opportunity for Metro Atlanta Youth
By Michele Jacobs, Senior Director, Youth Development at United Way of Greater Atlanta
Atlanta has a strong and diverse business sector, many post-secondary educational institutions, first-rate nonprofits, and a civil rights legacy that has grown into a movement ─ all of which have elevated our status to one of national recognition of activism and change. And yet, structural inequities born of racism create conditions that all too often entrench youth and young adults in cycles of poverty. Atlanta is ranked number one in economic inequality, a dynamic that fuels enormous economic and human negative repercussions for our city and the ability to realize our young people’s greatest potential.
At the United Way of Greater Atlanta, we’re committed to ensuring young adults have the tools to build a brighter future. According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, 65
percent of all jobs will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school. Education and training programs can help young people gain these skills. Work-based learning programs can teach non-cognitive skills, provide valuable guidance and effective interventions to help establish core work-related skills. To date, we have connected over 10,000 youth to education and employment opportunities.
Now, we’re turning the tide and working to become a national model for how best to drive transformational change in addressing the multi-layered issue of youth employment. United Way has a vision to build out a Youth Apprenticeship System called CareerReady ATL focused on creating multiple pathways to economic well-being for Black, Hispanic and other youth of color and developing the talent pipeline to meet the needs of our diverse industries. And we know this initiative is necessary – based on our Child Well-Being Index, a young person’s zip code is a greater predictor of our children’s future achievements, earnings, and life expectancy than their talent, hard work, or other factors. Our goal is to create 4,000 high-quality Youth Apprenticeship opportunities within the Greater Atlanta region.
Our efforts are intentionally building programs that reach into our schools and create pipelines to good jobs through pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs connected to high demand industries that pay family sustaining wages. We are building a comprehensive workforce development initiative that will create sustainable career pathways with youth at the center. “The COVID pandemic has changed the game all the way around, from the way that we do work, to the way that we provide youth development services, including the way that we do apprenticeships. It gave us a social impetus and a drive to be able to look at marginalized youth, those furthest from opportunity, to have the networks to help support their success and progression into a career”, according to John Helton, Executive Director of Atlanta CareerRise and a close partner with United Way in the youth apprenticeship space. “The pandemic has created a drive and awareness and willingness to energize resources around this group of youth.”
This is a pivotal moment for positive impact of the future economic and community well-being in metro-Atlanta through changing the trajectory for youth and young adults. So, they choose the future they want to see for themselves and their community.