Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Preparing Youth for the Workforce in Afterschool and Building Your Own Youth Worker Pipeline (Part 2)

Source: USC

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha

We know that when asked, older youth say they are most interested in acquiring the skills needed to get a job. Also, we know that as youth program leaders, it is our job to help prepare young people for success in adulthood, which includes creating opportunities to explore careers and gather workforce skills. Afterschool, sometimes referred to as Expanded Learning (ExL), is well positioned to help older youth to acquire these skills. 

Bill Fennessy is a Program Specialist for Workforce Initiatives at the California AfterSchool Network (CAN). We recently invited Bill to lead a How Kids Learn Speaker’s Forum webinar entitled, Preparing Youth for the Workforce in Afterschool and Building Your Own Youth Worker Pipeline.  To learn more and register, click here.

In preparation of this webinar, we asked Bill a few questions on the importance of youth workforce development in afterschool programs. You can read Part 1 of the interview here and we continue with Part 2 of his responses below.

Q: Do you think that the expanded learning setting is a good place for youth workforce preparation?  
Absolutely! The ExL setting is where young people can feel comfortable to learn and practice the skills they want to experience, in this case “Employability Skills Workshops”.   Work is something many of them are curious about or are already very interested in, so it is a very relevant activity for them. For those high school students that will serve at the elementary school ExL programs, the relationships they have with their own ExL program staff gives them the great opportunity to watch someone they trust model what would be expected when they work with elementary students. They also are implicitly introduced to the thought of an actual ExL job after high school, and they will likely need a job if they plan to attend college.

Source: A World Fit for Kids

Q: What does youth workforce preparation have to do with the ExL worker shortage?
A: We see that we can be part of a “grow your own” workforce approach, because one of the largest pools of potential Exl Staff is the current class of high school seniors, which is a source that is replenished annually. (High school students 16 years and older might also be considered). Therefore, focusing on the implementation of strategies that will work to make HS students aware of, or have experience in this potential field of ExL employment will begin the creation of a highly desirable pipeline.  Additionally, ExL programs and participants, particularly high school students, can be partnered with to also create pathways to multiple careers in education and other human services. This because the competencies that make an ExL staff person or site coordinator successful in their position are similar to the competencies that might be needed to implement restorative practices, community schools, teaching, counseling, social work, and a whole host of other professions. Therefore, we know this workforce can be part of a variety of career paths, including and especially in the field of expanded learning itself.

I do like participating as a staff assistant in the middle school program. I just love it when you have someone that looks up to you, running to you asking what class you’re helping that day. It feels good helping others. I also enjoy this role because they’re not the only ones learning from me; engaging with them helps me learn more about other things.” - HS youth, Richmond Village Beacon Center, SF, Ca 

Q: What form does workforce preparation usually take in ExL programs for older youth?  
It usually first shows up as an “Employment Skills Workshops” program (see graphic below). This is typically offered to all ExL participants. Other students may be recruited for the elementary school ExL “Work Experience Program”. Students may later use the skills learned to get a job on their own, which is clearly of great benefit to them.  

Bill Fennessy
is a Program Specialist for Workforce Initiatives at the California AfterSchool Network (CAN) since February 2022. After a successful professional motorcycle road-racing career, Bill began his new career in education in 1998 with the Pasadena Unified School District as a Campus Aide.   

Early in his career Bill worked at Blair IB School serving as a School Security Officer, a 3 sport Varsity Coach, Athletic Director, and later as the Site Coordinator for Blair’s 7th-9th grade ASES Program. He later developed one of California’s first ASSETs pilot programs. The success of the program was recognized early on, and it also provided the opportunities for him to become a pioneer, innovator, exemplary practitioner, and thought leader in High School Expanded Learning nationwide. Bill was then hired by Think Together in 2009, as its first Director of High School Programs. Once there, he successfully opened 14 ASSETs Programs across 4 Counties and 7 Districts, which all attained greater than 100% ADA in their first year of operation.  

Before leaving Think Together, Bill also led a highly successful CBO/EXLP/CTE collaborative effort to significantly increase student internships with Santa Ana USD. Bill recently served as the Director of High School Programs for A World Fit For Kids!, based in Los Angeles, and as a Consultant for the Los Angeles and Tulare Counties Offices of Education. 

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