A Pathway to Success
Covenant House’s Career Pathways Program is intended to provide youth experiencing homelessness with career pathways that provide access, opportunity, and success.
Since 2012, we have worked closely with our corporate partner Accenture to standardize our workforce development programs.
Regina Jennings, associate vice president of programs at Covenant House, said the program was intentionally designed to meet the needs of youth at our houses.
“Accenture has a body of research called Inclusive Future of Work — specifically to identify occupations suitable for our young people that pay a living wage, don’t require a college degree, and are part of an industry expected to grow, especially in a post-COVID economy,” Regina said.
Regina added that another goal of the program is to link young people to careers that are “resistant to automation or have low potential for automation.”
Before the start of the new workforce development program, Accenture started identifying some of those occupations. They customized their research, knowing that at Covenant House we serve young people overcoming homelessness. Then Accenture provided the funding to launch the Career Pathways Program.
Our research evaluation and learning team monitors a database populated by our sites across the federation. This allows us to understand where our young people are working and which jobs are paying the most. From this database, we found out that more than 50% of our youth are working in the retail and service industries, which don’t pay a living wage and have also been the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Using our own federation data provided by our Research, Evaluation, and Learning team, we developed a five-year plan, which identified four career pathways, and decided information technology (IT) was the best place to start,” said Regina.
We launched the first pilot in January 2022 at seven of our Houses: Alaska, California, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Missouri, and Vancouver.
Up to eight young people are able to get certification in one of six programs — IT Support, Data Analytics, Program Management, User Experience Design (UX Design), Salesforce Sales Development Representative (sales), and Sales Operations.
Regina said her team researched all potential certifications because “we want youth to leave with credentials that have some economic value.”
“Funding at sites covers equipment, connectivity, and youth stipends,” she added. “We are literally paying the youth for their time. Just like their peers in college get financial aid, they get paid too. For a lot of our youth, it won’t make sense for them to do this instead of getting a job, so stipends were built into the budget.”
At the end of the pilot, the team will determine some key outcome measures like how many young people actually obtain employment and exit to stable housing.
Our IT pilot offers our youth specialized training and certification for a fulfilling career in IT while providing them with the comprehensive continuum of care they need to overcome the systemic barriers they face to entering the workforce. Our initiative creates a pathway for young people of color to enter a sector that is struggling to diversify, as about 88% of our residents in the U.S. and Canada are young people of color. Youth can earn a professional certificate in approximately six months’ time.
“Right now, 27 youth are currently enrolled at various points in their courses, and four of them have already completed their certifications," said Regina.
“This is a year-long pilot and the sites are working hard to recruit youth for enrollment over these next few weeks,” she added.
Regina is also working with a former Covenant House Georgia resident and current Accenture employee, Dajon "DJ" Williams, to educate youth at partner sites on how versatile IT is as a career choice.
Attending both school and outside employment are still options for youth, as the IT career pathway is 100% web-based and certification takes about six months, with 10-12 hours a week of study.
These certifications prepare youth for employment at some of the highest-profile IT companies such as Google and Salesforce.
“Leaders at participating sites meet quarterly to share challenges and triumphs,” said Regina. “The info gathered will be used to expand in year 2, to make revisions and changes programmatically, and then help more sites launch the Career Pathways Program and help more of our young people get started in a meaningful, sustainable career.”