Putting people (including youth) to work
At last count, there were more than 10 million job openings in the United States, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary.
In a desperate attempt to find workers, employers are taking some bold steps by offering new hires everything from higher pay and signing bonuses to free college tuition. During the holidays, retailers and businesses struggled to find talent to support operations and the challenges appear to be continuing well into the new year.
Target is the latest case in point: In late 2021, the retail giant announced that it would cover 100% of tuition and textbook expenses for its 340,000 employees nationwide.
That’s a big ($200 million) investment that undoubtedly will reap big rewards.
At Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley, we too have been part of a movement to build a strong workforce. Like Target, we have always been committed to helping our employees defray the cost of college and prepare for positions of even greater responsibility at our Clubs. Employees can take advantage of tuition reimbursement up to $2,500 per year for their education. A number of our employees use this perk to pursue college and even earn master’s degrees.
But our work doesn’t end there. We are also preparing our young adults for the workforce – an often overlooked segment of the workforce – for good-paying jobs through a dynamic career exploration program called AZYouthforce.
Through a comprehensive, 30-hour AZYouthforce Academy, teens learn essential skills such as interviewing, resume development, financial literacy and critical thinking. These eager young workers can also earn certifications in retailing, IT and other areas.
Once they complete the training, the Academy’s graduates are then placed in paid internships in partnership with well-known local and national companies, including Bank of America, Banner Health, Jiffy Lube and Phoenix Suns Arena (Footprint Center). The jobs pay well – $15 per hour or more – and they close the opportunity and career readiness gaps by arming teens with the skills they need to succeed while setting them on a path to success. During the teens’ paid internship, there is a mentor onsite and an AZYouthforce internship manager who coaches them when they encounter challenges in the workplace.
The goal is to create equity for teens from under-resourced communities, while building a robust and diverse workforce. Importantly, these individuals make a meaningful contribution to their families’ income, too. Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley are removing barriers and adding support systems for teens they enter the workforce. National research has proven that work experience makes a positive impact on high school graduation rates, continuing education and long-term earning potential.
Ultimately, our goal is to guide teens in developing a plan for the future so they can achieve their career dreams.
So far, that seems to be working. Since the program’s inception in 2018, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley has trained, coached and placed more than 150 youth in internships and rewarding jobs. Even better, many of our Employer partners have hired these youth for permanent positions at their companies.
The need for workers in Arizona and throughout the nation is well-documented. Now more than ever, filling open positions will take ingenuity and an investment in people, including young talent with a desire and the potential to grow in their organizations.
Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley will accept the next group of participants in the AZYouthforce Academy and Bayless Entrepreneurship program in March. For more information or to submit an application, visit www.azyouthforce.org.
Marcia Mintz is chief executive officer of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley, which creates equity and opportunity for more than 13,000 K-12 youth in Greater Phoenix through their after-school and summer programs.