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Seattle Office of Economic Development announces new program to prepare local youth for jobs of the future

Today, the City of Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED) announced a new investment aimed at providing young people access to and preparation for employment in Seattle’s economy. The first ever Career Connected Learning Grants will fund nine local organizations to increase job readiness competencies for youth ages 14-24, part of Mayor Jenny A. Durkan’s efforts to connect Seattle’s youth with living wage jobs of the future.

“As Seattle grows, it’s more important than ever that we help prepare our young people for the jobs of the future,” said Mayor Durkan. “These new Career Connected Learning Grants will help build pipelines to opportunity for the next generation. We are excited to be partnering with these community organizations to build a more affordable future.”

“This program is all about making sure Seattle youth have the skills they need to be successful in the first steps of their career,” said Office of Economic Development Acting Director Bobby Lee. “These grants will fund programs that help young people develop important employability skills like problem solving and time management, while at the same time introducing youth to fun, rewarding careers available right here in Seattle.”

The nine programs receiving funding will lead Seattle youth through hands-on trainings, workshops, tours and more, all aimed at building job competencies while introducing youth to high-demand careers in industries including IT, healthcare and maritime. The grant awarded to Seattle Public Schools’ Health Services Pathway Program, for example, will increase SPS’s capacity to educate its youth about careers in the local healthcare industry and embed career learning into its curriculum.

“We are thrilled to receive this support from the City of Seattle, which will provide wonderful opportunities for students to explore and prepare for a wide range of careers,” said Jane Hendrickson, Career Technical Education (CTE) Program Manager at Seattle Public Schools. “We also hope that the Health & Medical Pathway will become a model for the type of high-quality career-focused programming that we are trying to build in alignment with industries across our city, given our emphasis on CTE pathways in the district’s new strategic plan.”

National and local research has demonstrated that an expansive approach is needed to effectively prepare youth for successful careers. The 2018 Job Readiness Skills for Youth report stresses the importance of developing “soft skills” so that Seattle youth are ready for their first jobs and have positive early experiences in the workforce. In addition to skill building, it is also important to empower youth to pursue the careers of their dreams—even those careers they may think of as being out of reach.

Youth on a Juma Seattle Career Tour. Photo courtesy Juma Seattle.

 “Juma Seattle career tours not only give young people a chance to see career possibilities, they also give youth from underserved communities a sense of belonging,” said Ren Gooch, Marketing and Communications Manager at Juma Seattle. “One Juma youth summed it up after a career tour at Boeing Airfield when she said, ‘Seeing everyone working here makes me think I can do this. I can be girly and like makeup and still come to work every day and build airplanes.’ Thanks to the grant from OED, this year Juma will be able to provide even more youth with these experiences, which can change the course of their lives and give them the confidence to reach for their dreams.”

Funded programs are preparing youth for the jobs of tomorrow, in alignment with Mayor Durkan’s Future of Work subcabinet. Seattle is at the forefront of emerging industries and technologies such as virtual reality, and connecting local youth with opportunities in these industries will help them navigate a workforce facing pressure from automation and other changes in the global economy.

“For years, ReWA has operated a Youth Job Readiness Training program for East African high school youth. After the youth complete their job readiness training and a group project, we place them in summer internships to practice their job skills and gain experience in a field that is related to their career interests,” explained ReWA Youth Program Manager Emily Tomita. “Every year, it’s a challenge to find internships for high school youth in tech fields. Our goal is to prepare youth to thrive in the Seattle economy, and access to early experiences in the tech sector are incredibly valuable. We are grateful to OED for providing us with an opportunity to create meaningful tech-focused internships for immigrant and refugee high school youth!”

OED issued a Career Connected Learning Request for Proposals in March 2019 that required applicants to focus on building job readiness competencies. Applicants were required to partner with an employer and describe how their proposal serves youth of color, immigrants and refugees, low-income youth, youth experiencing homelessness or housing instability, opportunity youth and/or English language learners. OED received 18 applications and is granting a total of $219,921 to nine organizations in 2019.

The organizations receiving this inaugural round of funding are:

The Career Connected Learning grants are a new part of the City’s expanding efforts to prepare Seattle’s youth for success in the local economy. Building off her Seattle Promise College Tuition Program, Mayor Durkan announced the Opportunity Promise program this year, a partnership with Seattle Colleges, local businesses, and labor unions to provide Seattle Promise students access to paid internships with Seattle’s top employers and labor organizations, as well as access to high-quality pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship training. The new Career Connected Learning Grants will not only prepare Seattle youth for entry into Seattle Colleges and first internships, but also get youth excited about available careers and encourage them to begin thinking about their career goals and interests.

Awarded grantees will be included in a cohort to help programs learn from each other, create pathways, and help the City identify and continuously improve strategies aimed at increasing employability for Seattle’s youth.

Learn more about the Office of Economic Development’s workforce development strategies and partners on our website.A