A successful career is often built on the foundation of meaningful early work experience, valuable connections and exposure to what’s possible — all things that are difficult to access for too many high school students from under-resourced communities. Urban Alliance (UA) offers youth in four U.S. cities, including Chicago, a chance to forge a career path through a program that combines job skills training, paid internships, mentoring and post-high school planning.
“We’re founded on the principle that all young people — no matter their race, ethnicity or background — deserve equal access to training, work experience and professional networks,” says Jenna Ketchum, Executive Director of Urban Alliance in Chicago. “We’re working to build a more equitable, next-generation workforce.” In Chicago, one in seven residents between the ages of 16 and 24 neither work nor attend school; rates for young Black Americans are even higher, making the need for equal opportunity especially acute.1
UA’s internship program for high-school seniors begins with a six-week workforce readiness bootcamp focusing on critical soft skills and digital literacy, then connects students with part-time internships during the school year, where they are paired with a mentor. During that time, interns also work with UA counselors to plan for college or further job training after graduation. After high school graduation, students work full time during the summer until embarking on their college or career journeys.
As a UA partner in Chicago, Bank of America hosts, sponsors and mentors interns. For the 2020-21 academic year, as part of our $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity, bank funding enabled Urban Alliance to place 93 high-school seniors from underserved communities in paid internships.
In the four cities where UA operates — Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit and the Greater Washington, D.C area — the internship program has produced impressive results: 80% remain connected to a self-sufficiency pathway and 90% of graduates enroll in college. “UA is more than a job, it’s the beginning of a pathway to lifelong economic mobility,” says Ketchum.