Youth Unemployment By The Numbers
6.7 million young people in the United States are out of work and out of school. Without a high school diploma or early employment opportunities, these “disconnected youth” are missing key learning and developmental experiences that will prepare them for the labor market and adulthood.” In addition, each “disconnected youth” costs society over $700,000 in lost earnings, lower economic growth, lower tax revenues, and high government spending. These numbers are staggering and showing no improvement as the economy rebounds. In fact, from 2000-2014 “teens consistently had the lowest employment rate among the age groups and also experienced the steepest decline, falling 16 percentage points to 26 percent. In 2014, only one in four teens had a job … A teen employment rate of 26 percent suggests that most teens are missing key learning and development experiences that will prepare them for the labor market and adulthood.” Without targeted interventions, disconnected youth are entering adulthood unprepared for the workforce and at a significant disadvantage as they seek employment and financial stability.
Urban Alliance is a youth development program dedicated to changing the landscape of youth unemployment. Through a model that combines paid professional internships, workplace readiness trainings, and mentoring on the job, youth are empowered to aspire, work, and succeed. In 2014 at Urban Alliance’s Youth Employment Matters event, Vice President Joe Biden stated, “The kind of partnerships that Urban Alliance builds are the kind we need all across the country between businesses, unions, non-profits and education systems … Every single one of [the Urban Alliance] interns learns skills that are going to last them a lifetime; how to work well with others, how to pay attention to detail, how to communicate in a professional environment. They’re being exposed to people in fields who show them how to pursue the future they once thought was out of reach.”
Since its founding in Washington, D.C. in 1996, Urban Alliance has expanded to Baltimore, Chicago, and most recently Northern Virginia. With the help of many corporate partners, under-resourced youth have the opportunity to be exposed to the professional working world. Urban Alliance Northern Virginia was established in 2013 when Venture Philanthropy Partners invested in an expansion to the National Capital Region. In year one, there were 25 interns working in Arlington and Alexandria – a number that doubled in year two, thanks to many generous companies, as well as the Patent and Trademark Office, that agreed to host local youth. Business partners in Arlington include the Arlington Chamber, Arlington County Office of Emergency Management, Arlington Food Assistance Center, Arlington Free Clinic, Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, Bank of America, Bloomberg BNA, Evolent Health, National Capitol Contracting, Smithsonian Institute, Virginia Hospital Center, and Virginia Tech. For the 2014-2015 program year, Bloomberg BNA (headquartered in Arlington) committed to serving interns through Urban Alliance, and the partnership has grown ever since.
Case Study: Bloomberg BNA
Bloomberg BNA is a long established corporation that is a subsidiary of Bloomberg L.P. Its commitment to diversity is clear, as evidenced in its many diversity initiatives. This focus on building an inclusive environment makes Bloomberg BNA a leader in workforce development. Bloomberg BNA seeks to attract high-performing talent that align with its innovative culture. Demedre Heulett, Corporate Counsel/Equal Employment Opportunity Manager, reflects “partnering with Urban Alliance is a great opportunity to mentor and guide students as they think about their future while providing Bloomberg BNA the ability to be active in the local community.”
The relationship between Urban Alliance and Bloomberg BNA began thanks to Tony Harris, Managing Editor, Human Resources. Tony was the first Urban Alliance “mentor of the year” back in 2006, and reached out to the organization once he found out youth were being served in Arlington through the program. Harris shared, “Urban Alliance is a special program to me, mostly because I grew up in Washington, D.C. I think I relate to many of the young people who come through the program because I had similar experiences. I’m always happy to assist in any way that I can.” Bloomberg BNA began its partnership with Urban Alliance in 2014 and has hosted interns for the last two years. With Bloomberg BNA’s support, interns have been working in various Marketing, IT, and Facilities departments to develop essential professional skills. In year one, two interns worked with the Facilities Department. Under the tutelage of mentor Cindy Clearwater, Facilities Manager, interns had a variety of experiences including helping prepare for internal moves and building mapping, all the while increasing their knowledge of Microsoft software, Bloomberg BNA’s information and technology procedures, and customary business security and safety protocols.
Bloomberg BNA also hosts two annual events – Essay Day and Networking Day) – for Urban Alliance Northern Virginia. Bloomberg Chief of Staff Jean Lockhart and Employee Engagement Manager Sandrine Uwera organize these sessions and many Bloomberg BNA staff volunteer their time to spend an afternoon reviewing essays youth have written for college applications, helping edit resumes and cover letters, providing tips on networking and branding, as well as sharing the trajectory of their careers. These events are mutually beneficial as Bloomberg BNA staff reflect that they enjoy working with young people, and the Urban Alliance students always teach them something.
Case Study: Arlington Chamber
Founded in 1924, the Arlington Chamber is a voluntary, nonprofit organization of hundreds of businesses and thousands of professional people who are committed to the economic prosperity and civic well-being of the Arlington, VA community. Even after more than 90 years of serving their membership, the Chamber is still an ever-changing, growing Chamber – tailoring its work to meet its members’ needs today and g into the Chamber they will need tomorrow. The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has been dedicated to supporting the local community since inception, and a partnership with Urban Alliance was a natural fit.
Membership Engagement Manager and Urban Alliance Mentor Alex Held reflected, “Programs like Urban Alliance are important to the communities in which they serve because they provide students with an avenue to obtain necessary career experience which more and more is required in entry level jobs. I think the Urban Alliance model is better than others because it combines work experience with mentorships and professional development which is highly critical for young people’s professional development and future career success.”
The Arlington Chamber hosted a young man named Iyuram this year, who worked with the Chamber staff to fulfill their mission to strengthen the business and economic environment for those who live, work, and do business in Arlington. He worked on database management, researching/prospecting members and sponsors, and creating event materials for Chamber events. Alex adds, “One thing I’ve been impressed by in working with Iyuram is his work ethic. I’ve also noticed this from other Urban Alliance interns in that they have a very strong work ethic and a desire to learn new tasks. One goal of mine is to help Iyuram find his confidence.”
In addition to hosting an Urban Alliance intern, the Arlington Chamber has supported all Urban Alliance youth and programs for youth employment through their Education and Workforce Development Committee. This committee works to foster relationships between education and business and advises the chamber on strategies that prepare students for a career, further education, citizenship, and lifelong learning. Members have the opportunity to participate and many from the business and education communities come together monthly to discuss workforce development in Arlington.