Students Celebrate Completion of YouthForce NOLA Summer Internships

Real Work Experience Primes High Schoolers for Career Success

Data News Weekly Staff Edited Report

Nearly 200 New Orleans public high school students celebrated the completion of their participation in the 2018 Summer YouthForce NOLA Internship program (YFI) at a ceremony Tuesday evening.

“We are so proud of the students who completed internships this summer, and we’re grateful to the employers and sponsors who helped make it possible,” said Cate Swinburn, the president of YouthForce NOLA. “The students are entering their senior year of high school with professional work experience and soft skills that many people do not acquire until they join the workforce full time. This real-world experience places them a step ahead and positions them to achieve even greater success after high school.”

A capstone of the YouthForce NOLA student experience, YFI is a comprehensive, 150-hour program that trains rising seniors from open enrollment Orleans Parish schools in essential soft skills, business etiquette, financial and digital literacies, and workplace rights and responsibilities, and then places them in a 90 hour work-based internship.

“The YouthForce Internship program is and will continue to be a major resource for addressing racial and economic disparity in this city,” said New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams, an avid champion for YFI who provided the evening’s keynote address. “Our future depends on opportunity for young people, and this initiative doing just that.”

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr. also spoke at the ceremony, telling students “I am so proud to see so many young people who represent Orleans Public Schools so well…I look forward to May 2019 when each of you walks across the stage and I can shake your hand on a job well done.”

In addition to valuable soft skills and work experience, each YouthForce intern receives a stipend made possible by the City of New Orleans, which has committed $1.1 million to place 925 students into paid internships through 2020.

“Employment is crucial for everyone, and it starts as early as your teens,” said Emily Wolff, Director of the City’s newly-created Office of Children and Families. “Mayor Cantrell firmly believes that career education and technical skill building are important for all of our young people. We are so grateful for the work that YouthForce NOLA does to make this a reality.”

This summer, the student interns were hosted by 88 local businesses in our region’s high-wage, high-demand career pathways: Digital Media/IT, Health Sciences, and Skilled Crafts.

“Supporting students from diverse backgrounds and offering them real work experience, helping them achieve their full potential, benefits both employers and students”, said CIO GE New Orleans, Kevin Dawson. “Helping develop the talent pipeline in New Orleans is critical, and we are proud to partner with YouthForce NOLA, ensuring their students are workforce ready.”

YouthForce NOLA is on pace to meet its goal of having 10% of the class of 2020 complete internships. The program was founded in 2015, and has grown from 17 completers in the inaugural summer to nearly 200 in this fourth summer.

Internships are but one strategy YouthForce NOLA is deploying to meet its goal of preparing New Orleans public school students for the tens of thousands of high-wage, high-demand jobs that will come available in the greater New Orleans region in the next ten years. The nonprofit also offers expanded coursework offerings, soft skills training, and employer-validated credentials.

The following Funding Partners made the Summer 2018 YouthForce Internships possible: Bloomberg Philanthropies, Chevron Gulf of Mexico, City of New Orleans, JP Morgan Chase & Co., and United Way of Southeast Louisiana. In kind donations were provided by Acrew, Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House, and Palace Cafe.

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