Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program Receives $500,000 Grant from Hartford Foundation

Program offers hundreds of Hartford teenagers real-world job training and work experience


While many young people struggle to obtain their first job after high school, Isaiah Alvarado has worked at three different jobs over the past three summers thanks to his participation in Capital Workforce Partners’ (CWP) Summer Youth Employment and Learning program.  Working with the Center for Latino Progress, Isaiah has been placed at jobs at TJ Maxx, Hartford Public Library and Naturally Cats and Dogs.

“Participating in the Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program has helped me tremendously over the past three years,” said Alvarado. “I have learned everything from creating a resume, how to participate in job interviews, networking and developing the basic skills necessary to participate in the workforce.”

This summer, hundreds of Hartford teens like Isaiah will receive invaluable summer youth employment experience thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving to support CWP’s Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program.

“We know that the one of the most valuable tools to future career success is having an opportunity to develop work skills in a real world setting,” said Sharon O’Meara, the Hartford Foundation’s director of Community Investments. “This program allows young people to develop more solid career pathways by exposing them to a variety of career and educational possibilities.  Besides providing stipends and wages, employment opportunities provide structure for youth during the summer and lead to greater engagement socially, in school, and in the future workforce.”

CWP’s Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program is operated as a three-stage program where increased time is spent in wage-earning work settings as youth move through the each tier.

Tier I: Project-based Learning and Career Exploration includes classroom training coupled with project-based learning and career exploration culminating in a showcase or group presentation.  Tier I also provides students with intensive career competencies training including basic academic skills, computer literacy, personal qualities, interpersonal communication, job seeking skills, customer service, problem solving and decision-making, as well as financial literacy.  Tier I is for 14 and 15 year olds who lack prior work and learning experiences and includes a training stipend.

Tier II: Project Based Work Experience , includes one week of classroom training, assessment and career competency development, culminating with placement into a paid work experience with a public or private nonprofit organization where youth work in teams on projects and receive coaching and mentoring from worksite supervisors and program staff.  Beginning the second week, four days of work experience are coupled with one day of reflection, debriefing, and further career competency development.  The program is for 15 – 16 year olds with limited work and learning experiences.

The community agencies responsible for implementing Tiers I and II are:  Artists Collective, Blue Hills Civic Association, Center for Latino Progress, Community Renewal Team, Our Piece of the Pie, Restoring Lives Community Development Corporation, and Urban League of Greater Hartford.

Tier III: Paid Internships provides youth with the opportunities to participate in subsidized internships after completing competency development training.  Interns are supervised by both worksite and teacher/program coordinator.

Hartford Foundation funds will primarily support stipends and wages for 247 youth participating in Tiers I and II. A portion of the grant will also be used to provide wages for youth in 83 newly-developed Tier III employment slots.

As for Isaiah, he will be attending American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts where he will be majoring in criminal justice. After college, he hopes to work for the FBI and also start up his own small business. Before college begins, Isaiah will once again be working at Naturally Cats and Dogs this summer and continue learning about what it takes to run a business.

“Working for a small local business has taught me a great deal about customer service, marketing, getting a loan from the bank and all the various aspects involved with running your own business,” Isaiah said. “I feel like this experience has prepared me for pursuing my dreams to start my own business in the future.”

Thomas Phillips, president and CEO of Capital Workforce Partners says the Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program provides invaluable experience and resources to better prepare city youth for the world of work.

"There is nothing much more valuable than paid work internships for our city's teens.  It is real life work experiences that help shape career aspirations.  These young interns learn both what they might want to do in the future, as well as what they don't want to do, and for both outcomes, the need for continued education is reinforced," says Phillips.   "Simply based on the demographics, a considerable percentage of our future workforce will come from the young populations in our cities like Hartford. The better we prepare these young adults now; the better off Hartford will be in the next decade and beyond.”