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Helping Students Learn Skills and Maintain Balance

The Boys & Girls Club of America (BGCA) has a long history of connecting with and improving opportunities for adolescents across the country. Now, the organization is teaming up with retailers to place more young people in reliable, flexible jobs. The partnerships provide young people with the skills they need to land and succeed in their first jobs. The local branches “provide career exploration to help young people make decisions for their choices as well as learn what it means to be successful in the workforce,” said Terri Fishback, Senior Director of Youth Development Strategy Execution & Youth Development Operations at BGCA. The program teaches young people interviewing, organization and creative reasoning skills. The program, called “This Way Ahead” has trained and placed 3,800 low-income teens in retail internships, 75 percent of whom received part-time job offers following completion of the internship.

Initiatives focused on employment for young people provide stability in more ways than one. While supporting desires to contribute to their own families and get a head start on skill development, such programs also develop the ability to help build larger communities, providing both an immediate benefit and long-term payoff. When young people begin developing a foundation of practical skills, they are better equipped to take on the communication, critical thinking and problem-solving needed to execute them.Such capabilities are readily transferable across academic, professional and personal roles..

The young people enrolled in the program with BGCA are “learning skills during the day, reinforcing them at the club after school and then applying them at the job opportunity,” said Fishback. It is the “full approach” to developing knowledge experience in both careers and life.”

It is imperative that programs designed for young people also support a balance between work and academics. To accommodate the students, retail partners are flexible with hours and do not ask students to work more than 20 hours a week, as doing so can be detrimental to students’ academic careers. But with a healthy balance, incorporating work into young people’s schedules can improve their academic development. “This Way Ahead” program graduates stay with the retail company they intern with twice as long as their peers. In addition, program participants report higher engagement scores than their co-workers. 

Zoe Alexander, [email protected]

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