Our program model is designed to ensure that youth overcoming homelessness have a foundation of good physical and mental health as they prepare to enter the workforce—some for the very first time. Finding meaningful employment with a living wage and a career ladder is critical to the long-term stability and independence of our young people, but they face a volatile job market transformed by the pandemic.
In January 2022, we launched a multi-year education and workforce development plan that creates real pathways for our young people to secure long-term, sustainable “opportunity jobs” in the post-pandemic economy—jobs that have growth potential, are automation resilient, pay a living wage, and do not require a college degree. Our initial pilot in Information Technology (IT) was launched at seven Covenant House sites. The learnings from each of these pilots will enable us to evaluate and codify best practices, and then replicate and scale them up across our Federation.
Our Education and Employment Services
Education and career readiness are key to breaking the cycle of homelessness and trafficking. Yet, when young people arrive at Covenant House, only 51% have a high school diploma or GED and 77% are unemployed.
Either directly or through referral, we guide youth to appropriate educational and vocational opportunities, matching each young person’s strengths and abilities with their career interests. Last year across our Federation, 2,800 youth enrolled or remained in school and 160 youth obtained a high school diploma or equivalency. Additionally, 2,900 youth engaged in on-site workforce development programs and 2,500 youth gained or maintained employment.
Since 2012, we have worked closely with our corporate partner Accenture to standardize our workforce development programs, gradually integrating their Skills to Succeed workforce readiness and job-skilling curriculum at Covenant House sites in the U.S. and Canada. We leveraged the insights and research from Accenture’s Inclusive Future of Work report and began creating skill-building solutions for our youth whose jobs face a high risk of disruption from automation. In response to this challenge, in December 2020, we inaugurated a strategic workforce development initiative and began leading a coordinated approach to meet these challenges. The onset of the pandemic, and the resultant volatility and transformation of the job market and workplace, only increased the urgency of our efforts.
Workforce Development Career Pathways Program
Our Workforce Development Career Pathways Program is intended to provide youth experiencing homelessness with career pathways that enable them to edit and revise their stories—drafted by systemic racism and societal systems that perpetuate inequality—with new narratives of access, opportunity, and success. Our program focuses on career pathways that will lead to jobs that provide not just a living wage, but a career ladder of advancement for our young people, the majority of whom do not have a college degree. The IT and Healthcare sectors were selected for years one and two since both sectors offer career pathways with significant growth potential and a high likelihood for job placement for our young people.
We launched the first pilot in January 2022 at seven of our Houses: Alaska, California, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Missouri, and Vancouver. 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 its ranks. Youth can earn a professional certificate in approximately six months that can lead to jobs in high-growth fields that pay a living wage. These certifications prepare youth for employment at some of the highest-profile IT companies such as Google and Salesforce. We are working closely with our corporate partners, both locally and nationally, to provide IT internship and career opportunities for young people in the program.
IT Pilot Initial Results
Over the past year, our team provided technical assistance, training in best practices for program implementation, and direct funding to each site as they launched their certification programs. Participating youth are actively completing job readiness core competencies, selecting their IT pathway from a menu of professional certification courses available through the Grow with Google program on the Coursera platform, and completing the curriculum, certification, and exams. Program highlights from our pilot in 2022 include:
- 35 youth enrolled in the program.
- Six youth completed their certifications; three in Data Analytics and three in IT Support.
- All six youth who completed their certifications are in a pipeline for apprenticeships with our corporate partners (including Cisco and Accenture).
- Of the participants, 64% identified as male, 34% as female, and 2% as transgender. Two are mothers who work full-time jobs and are in school while pursuing their certifications.
Learnings from the pilot and feedback from our youth and our workforce development staff will help inform future program enhancements, scaling, and replication. Over the next year, we expect to serve 3,000 youth through our workforce development programs, assisting 2,500 youth to obtain or maintain employment, and helping 2,800 youth enroll in or maintain their education.
Covenant House is relentlessly committed to providing support and opportunities to youth and young families overcoming homelessness, exploitation, and trafficking. Our staff and high-quality programs and services help young people achieve housing stability, heal from trauma, and hone their interests and skills to forge new pathways to independence.