Working on It: Local business volunteers conduct mock interviews to help Minneapolis teens obtain summer jobs and internships.
Objective: Provide summer jobs for youth in Minneapolis.
In a Nutshell: STEP-UP finds local businesses to pledge to provide paid summer jobs and internships. It recruits high schoolers, provides work readiness training, and places the youths in those jobs based on their interests and employers’ needs. The program is part of Achieve! Minneapolis, a nonprofit that focuses on helping youth succeed in school and the workplace.
Where It Happens: The jobs are all over the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
Who Started It: After an increase in youth violence and a decline in state funding for youth programs, Mayor R.T. Rybak (D) and the city’s Youth Coordinating Board launched the idea in 2002. The program began in 2004.
Who Runs It: Director David Brant leads STEP-UP with a staff of five and two interns. More than 600 volunteers help supervise youths at the job sites. Another 200 volunteers from local businesses conduct mock interviews with youths to help them learn how to handle that process.
Overcoming Obstacles: Requiring youths to enroll in the fall and winter, which allows enough time to complete training, made it difficult to reach recruiting goals. High school staff members now help spread the word early, and the program reaches youths more directly with presentations and applications in classrooms.
Also, finding new businesses to participate and expanding existing relationships with businesses was a challenge. Now major business organizations, such as the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, help to promote local involvement.
Cost: STEP-UP’s annual operating budget is $375,000.
Who Pays: The city of Minneapolis is the primary funder, with help also coming from General Mills, the financial firms Allianz Group and GMAC-RFC, and the Minneapolis Empowerment Zone program.
Youth Served: Almost 700 youths are slated to participate this summer; 1,700 have participated since 2004. All Minneapolis residents ages 16 to 21 are eligible.
Last summer, 70 percent of the participants were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, and 83 percent were youths of color.
Youth Turn-On: Having a good summer job on your résumé. The job opportunities in the program are more diverse than what high schoolers can usually get. And the median hourly wage for participants last summer was $8.35, more than $3 above the state minimum wage.
Youth Turn-Off: The initial requirements discourage some youth. They have to submit résumés when they apply – a step that some youth have said is the most difficult – then attend four certified work readiness training sessions to prepare them for the workplace.
Youths then face the challenge of traveling to work; for some, it takes up to an hour by bus.
Research Shows: All of the 2005 participants are enrolled in post-secondary education or are employed, according to STEP-UP. Last year, 96 percent of the supervisors at the companies said the program was a success, while 94 percent of the youths said their jobs provided a valuable learning experience.
What Still Gets in the Way: There still aren’t enough job opportunities. This summer, about 100 youths who trained with the program will not be placed in jobs. STEP-UP needs to increase youth and business involvement in order to reach its goal of providing 1,300 jobs by 2010.