Building a path to career success for Boston youth

Sep 30, 2011

In Boston's knowledge-based economy, young people need both academic credentials and workplace skills to succeed. Studies have shown that summer jobs increase the employment, college-enrollment and earnings rates of participants after they graduate from high school. With the national unemployment rate for teens at an all-time high of 25 percent, it is more important than ever that Boston youth have access to meaningful summer job opportunities that can set them on the path to future success.

The Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) is a public-private partnership that connects the youth and adults of Boston to education and employment opportunities. The PIC manages the private sector component of the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Campaign. The campaign is critical to the PIC’s core strategy—developing workplace skills and career aspiration in order to facilitate academic achievement and persistence. Bank of America is a founding corporate sponsor of the program, which began in 1982, and continues to provide 50 summer jobs within its offices and funds to support an additional 50 summer jobs with area nonprofit partners.

“The young people who attend Boston public schools see the tall buildings from afar, yet rarely have the opportunity to go inside,” says Neil Sullivan, the executive director of the Boston PIC. “Through our partnership with Bank of America, we have been able to bring hundreds of teenagers into the tower to be part of the corporate workplace.”

Fatoumata Sylla is one of these young adults. A senior at Boston Latin Academy, Fatoumata began her seven week internship with Bank of America this past summer and was immediately challenged by her manager, Wendell Chestnut, to learn a new business vocabulary. A senior vice president and market manager for Small Business Banking, Wendell has been managing PIC interns during his 15 years at Bank of America to ensure continual progress.

“The program with Bank of America is successful in great part because the bank is uniquely focused on cultivating relationships between the bank executives and the interns,” continued Neil Sullivan. “You cannot replace the chemistry of having a bank executive, such as Wendell Chestnut, supervise a 17 year-old, like Fatoumata Sylla, who is thinking about how education will affect her career path. The mentoring that takes place in this relationship is priceless.”

"Before I started at Bank of America, I thought I wanted to start my own business, but I didn’t know what that entailed,” said Fatoumata. “Now I know how important a role my education will play in building a successful business.”

For Fatoumata, the future is bright.

“Because of Fatoumata’s participation in the program, she now possesses a business acumen and relationships with key executives at the bank who she can call upon for references and advice as she applies to college and begins her career,” said Wendell.

Bank of America believes that investing in student leadership and workforce development plays a pivotal role in revitalizing the community and helping neighborhoods thrive. “Through our partnership with the Boston PIC,” said Bob Gallery, Market President for Massachusetts, “we are helping Boston youth gain valuable skills, experience and professional relationships that put them on a path to achieving educational success and economic self sufficiency.”

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