YouthForce NOLA Poised to Provide Real-World Skills and Real-Life Success for New Orleans Students

Innovative Career Readiness Initiative prepares New Orleans students for college and a wide range of high-wage, high-demand careers; receives over $9 million of funding commitments

New Orleans- YouthForce NOLA (YFN), an education, business, and civic partnership, is launching a new career readiness initiative this June 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.

Over the next ten years, more than 70,000 jobs in the skilled crafts, health sciences, and creative/tech industries will become available in the New Orleans region. YFN has set a goal that 20% of the Class of 2020 (and approximately 1,600 students total over the next five years) will earn industry recognized credentials qualifying them for entry-level jobs with clear advancement opportunities in these high-paying regional industries. Through partnerships with the business community, YFN helps expose students to these career opportunities and ensures curricula are focused on the skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow. “YouthForce NOLA expands our ability to prepare students for their futures; more students will earn industry recognized credentials and more will be prepared for post-secondary pathways because of this support,” says Warren Easton Charter High School Principal Alexina Medley.

YouthForce NOLA will increase student engagement, high school graduation rates, and two- and four-year degree attainment. While New Orleans has seen unprecedented improvement in student academic performance, the region nevertheless has the nation’s third highest percentage of youth aged 16-24 who are neither in school nor working. YFN is poised to change this statistic through a multiyear, multipronged, cross-sector approach to student success. “Connecting students with real-world experience helps them find the right fit and puts them on the inside track to future success,” says Janet Snow-Godfrey, Senior VP of HR and Chief HR Officer at Ochsner Health Systems, an engaged industry partner.

This summer, 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.”

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 Southeastern LA; 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.

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Jasmine Henderson