Centering Youth in Workforce Development

Creating access to economic opportunities for young people is a key part of ensuring the long-term success of youth and communities in Minnesota. Beyond providing youth with engaging and high-quality out-of-school time programming, workforce development and entrepreneurship training for youth are critical. As an intermediary, Youthprise is uniquely positioned to partner with cross-sector partners in the area of Economic Opportunity.

Marcus, Creating Pathways for Youth Success

Marcus Pope, Youthprise’s Vice President, explains why workforce development is crucial to ensuring that young people have the opportunity to thrive:

When we’ve talked to young people, one of the big things they want is a job, the ability to be self-sufficient and have future economic prosperity. That’s a common theme –

One of our areas at Youthprise is focused on creating economic opportunities for young people. That’s really supporting young people’s workforce readiness skills, soft skills, employment skills, connecting them to career pathways particular in industries that are in demand. We also believe that we need to support young entrepreneurs and support them early.


Neese, Shaping the Future of Youth Engagement

Neese Parker, our Youth Engagement Manager, began as an AmeriCorps Vista intern and has contributed to Youthprise’s strategies in youth philanthropy and youth-driven research. Neese is an in-house design thinking facilitator and has worked with young people to design a more inclusive design thinking process. Our commitment to engaging youth in our operations is one of the ways that we model Learning and Leadership, a focus area that promotes the learning, leadership, and social-emotional development of youth and seeks to shift how programs engage youth in leadership and governance.

I think meeting young people where they’re at is such important thing to be investing in and doing more properly. One way I think doing that is through investing in the arts. Here at Youthprise, we have the Yes Fund. The fund was designed for individual investments into young people to develop themselves in different ways. Last year, it was around entrepreneurship, young people who were starting up businesses, trying to implement their own change. This year, we will be investing in Somali entrepreneurs as well as young artists that are in the development stages of their careers. We hope that by investing into youth entrepreneurship we will build stronger communities and encourage young people to follow their passions.


Lydia, Learning Skills and Helping Others

Beginning in 2014, Youthprise took on an essential role as a hub for the Nutrition Program – coordinating, recruiting, training and supporting programs to serve nutritious snacks and hot meals. In 2016 we supported 26 Nutrition sites across the Twin Cities and served over 140,000 meals. Neighborhood House has been at the forefront of our nutrition pilot programs and introducing youth as the leading component of improving the program. Lydia began as Neighborhood Fellow and with the help of Wellstone Center staff, her role has evolved into Nutrition Site Coordinator.

My favorite memory of working at Neighborhood House is being able to give back to my community through this organization.


Shanell, A Youth Fellow Making Moves

Youthprise is committed to engaging young people across all areas of our work. In addition to a board of directors comprised of 50% youth, young people are embedded across all areas of our organizational work as staff.  In 2016 we implemented Youth Fellowship Positions, which are youth staff positions that offer stable work and support for their development as nonprofit professionals. As the Communications Coordinator, Shanell McCoy is one of our Youth Fellows.

Being a student and going to school to pursue a degree was my priority. It was important for me to find a job that worked around my school schedule. Youthprise was able to work with my schedule and gave me the opportunity to work in the field I was going to school for. This enabled me to mold my position at Youthprise to work for me and my personal life.


MIGIZI, Green Jobs Growing Opportunities for Youth

Another way that we support economic opportunity is by leveraging federal dollars to invest in local workforce development initiatives at youth-serving organizations. MIGIZI’s Green Jobs Pathway, which is supported through Youthprise’s federally funded grant, Opportunity Reboot, builds young people’s capacity to enter the green economy, renewable energy, and other career opportunities associated with the exciting field of alternative energy development. Shania is a participant in this innovative program.

Through Migizi’s Green Pathway Program, I can come in at what time I’m available, so all of the hours are flexible for me. It makes my life so much easier because I am working and my child is being taken care of, so if I don’t have someone to watch him, I can bring him, which is really convenient.


Ultimately, we know that workforce development initiatives are one way to engage young people and build meaningful life skills that can contribute to lifelong success. We know that our state’s success depends on continued investments in young people and at Youthprise we are committed to investing in the enterprise of youth. Are you?


The Creators

Nancy Musinguzi • Photographer and Journalist

Wokie Weah • Presented by

Adeeb Missaghi • Web Designer

Published on August 14, 2017