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Different Pathways to Economic Self-Sufficiency

A note from Eshauna Smith on how we support all the different pathways our students take to reach economic self-sufficiency:

Dear Friends,

The typical UA student finishes our program and goes on to college – but for students like Kyree and Shania in Baltimore, they were searching for a different pathway, but didn’t know where to look or how to get there. “Some people don’t know what they want to do,” Shania said, and so students like her think: “‘Okay, I guess I have to go to college because that’s the traditional route. What else am I going to do?'”

Urban Alliance was able to offer both students a different pathway to economic self-sufficiency, and it changed their futures. Kyree and Shania both participated in the first year of our Future Surveyors Program to pursue careers in land surveying. Both had never heard of the industry before, both excelled during their internships, both were hired on full-time in career-ladder positions at RK&K and Century Engineering respectively, and both say they have found their calling.

How best to fill the jobs of now and of the future is a question being raised all over the country, from leaders in Washington, D.C. to Fortune 500 CEOs, with solutions ranging from apprenticeships to free community college. Here at Urban Alliance, we believe that early work exposure is the key to not only building a stronger talent pipeline but also ensuring that all young people have the tools needed to connect to future careers.

In recent years, as the cost of a college education continues to balloon, we’ve noticed that more of our students are interested in non-traditional pathways to success after high school, but are uncertain how to connect to meaningful, immediate employment after graduation. Meanwhile, the number of open jobs in the U.S. has climbed to a record high of 7.3 million, and 83 percent of employers in a new Society for Human Resource Management study report difficulty in filling these open positions. However, there are still 4.6 million young people neither in school or working. It is clear that the young people who most need career-ladder employment and the employers who need workers are unable to bridge the gap between them.

So in 2017, we piloted a program with the Baltimore City Public Schools 21st Century School Buildings Program to connect students enrolled in the city’s career and technology education (CTE) courses to internship opportunities in the booming construction field, preparing them with the soft skills they needed to succeed in any professional workplace with entry into a middle-skill industry. Then last year, we partnered with the Maryland Society of Surveyors and the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development to match Baltimore students with internships in the land surveying industry, another thriving field with workers retiring faster than they can be replaced and the average age of a surveyor at 58 years old.

This spring we’ll be welcoming the next class of students into our Future Surveyors and CTE programs – now including a new hospitality track to provide entry into another growing industry with high career mobility. Urban Alliance is committed to setting our students firmly on a pathway toward economic self-sufficiency – whatever that looks like for them. We’re proud to offer our students exposure to a wide range of careers so they can find the best fit for them – and to offer employers a chance to connect with the next-generation workforce at an early juncture.

For students like Kyree and Shania, that first open door to a previously undreamed-of career can be life-changing. “If you want to get a great career at the early age of 18, you should come here,” Kyree said of the Future Surveyors Program. “If you want a long-term family who you can talk to whenever, you should come here … It meant a lot to me, it honestly really did. Without them, I don’t where I would be right now.”

As always, thank you for helping to make stories like Kyree’s and Shania’s possible.

With gratitude,