Often structures and programs intended to engage youth are designed from the systems and organizational perspective. Our approach to designing and building effective pathways is to put the youth experience at the center of the design. The pathways to success must be compelling and user-friendly in order for youth to desire access, and remain engaged. We have learned that for success disconnected youth need to be connected, respected, and understood. For this reason, we have engaged youth as critical stakeholders in the design and implementation of the pathways. Youth stressed the need for an easy-to-access, seamless structure of support that sees and honors their strengths and helps them to overcome challenges and barriers that stand in the way of their success.

There are many programs in Baltimore that already share this orientation many already involved in the BCOYC. We do not wish to duplicate already-existing programmatic elements that align with our orientation and approach. Therefore, we will identify the most aligned programs to serve as Foundation Program Test Sites. The key elements of our ultimate vision are (1) individualized pathway development, (2) in-place navigation support from trained adult Pathway Navigators and Peer Navigators, (3) an aligned and coordinated structure of support, and (4) a clear network of communication between all stakeholders connected to the youth.

Foundational Programs Test Sites will be selected based on criteria to be developed over the summer, and themost qualified will be engaged as Test Sites based on their willingness and capacity to serve our target population, including demonstrated evidence of effectiveness in building the skills of OY and connecting them to work experiences, post-secondary, jobs and/or related supports, willingness and ability to collect and share data, and willingness and ability to incorporate the BCOYC’s strategies into its programming.

We will develop specific Pathways to connect youth to employer-recognized credentials, post-secondary education, work experiences and entrepreneurship. These pathways are informed by learning from the Opportunity Collaborative’s 2013 study of local workforce supply and demand in 2013, which resulted in the Regional Talent Development Pathway Study (RTDPS), by post-secondary educational attainment, and by surveys and interviews with youth conducted by youth affiliated with BCOYC. The RTDPS identified six sectors including healthcare, construction, information technology (including cybersecurity), transportation and warehousing, business services, and manufacturing likely to constitute the greatest number of the 35,800 new jobs projected in 39 mid-skilled occupations. The BCOYC, with input from youth participants and surveyed youth, examined the results of the RTDPS and considered which sectors had the most promise to build on for youth. Accordingly, as noted under Collaboration above, we will begin by targeting the following sectors: healthcare, construction, media/IT, biotech, culinary/hospitality, and entrepreneurship.

Today’s youth are often more attracted to entrepreneurial opportunities than traditional jobs. In addition, there is a high correlation of skills necessary for success in enterprise development to those found in urban youth. We will create dynamic experiences with the many incubators and social-enterprise and entrepreneurial networks that exist in Baltimore to provide experience and build skills in business development. Post-secondary pathways will focus on enrollment and achievement in two- year or four-year college programs, work-experience pathways will focus on internship and placement opportunities through programs listed above. These pathways will be built out to include low-skill service jobs to allow youth to support themselves while pursuing longer-term, family-supporting career opportunities.

Employers are challenged to fill jobs with skilled and ready workers, and experience significant employee turnover. Much of this turnover is caused by life intruding on the plans of the youth. We will work to improve access to transportation, childcare centers (because many youth have children), and employee assistance programs.