At United Way, we empower young people to succeed in living-wage jobs—a goal that benefits all of North Texas.
May is an important month for North Texas high schoolers, as tens of thousands of graduating seniors prepare to take their first steps into the world. Many will head to college or start a career. While this time can be exciting, unfortunately some new graduates will find that their K-12 education may not have fully prepared them for the challenges ahead.
Serious financial difficulties are all too common for young people in our community. Seventy-four percent of young adults in North Texas don’t earn a living wage. Without that basic level of financial stability, our young neighbors can easily fall behind.
At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we know that financial stability, along with education and health, is one of the building blocks of opportunity—but it doesn’t happen overnight. A steady income is the result of a good education and effective career training.
We want to ensure that all young people are prepared for college or a career when they graduate high school, so they can go on to establish and maintain a life of financial security. As part of our Aspire United 2030 goals, we’re working to increase by 20 percent the number of young adults in North Texas who earn a living wage. This type of progress won’t only benefit individuals; it will have an enormous impact on our region as a whole, adding nearly $800 million in wages to the local economy every year.
Today, in honor of all the newly graduated seniors throughout North Texas, let’s take a closer look at the importance of college and career readiness, some of the key steps that can set a student up for success, how United Way works to advance these efforts and how you can be involved in the movement.
The Importance of College and Career Readiness
For Dallas-Fort Worth to continue its economic success, our region needs a skilled workforce that is prepared for the jobs and demands of today’s global economy. Unfortunately, many students don’t have a clear path to a living-wage career.
Consider these statistics: Eighty-five percent of good-paying jobs in North Texas require education beyond a high school diploma, but only 30 percent of local students are prepared for college or career training that will qualify them for these jobs. Like so much else in our society, this problem hits people of color hardest: The rates of college readiness are significantly lower for Black (15 percent) and Latinx (17 percent) students compared to their White peers (42 percent).
Clearly, we need programs and initiatives that will better prepare graduates to earn a living wage, while also helping to build a diverse workforce.
A Clear Path to Living-Wage Careers
Understandably, most K-12 students don’t intuitively know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. At such a young age, they need exposure and access to the relevant skills, experience and connections that will equip them for a living wage job with career advancement—helping to ensure long-term financial stability and economic mobility.
At United Way, our work in the area of income and financial stability has shown us that young people benefit from experiences throughout their K-12 years that expose them to important information and insights about their future college and career choices.
Here are some of the key experiences that can help set students up for success in living wage jobs as they enter the workforce:
- Site visits: Students visit a company or organization to experience the work environment and learn directly from employees.
- Job shadowing: Students discover what it’s like to do a certain job by shadowing an employee throughout the day.
- Internships: Students gain direct experience and new skills by doing practical work related to their field of study or career interest.
- Apprenticeships: Students participate in a high-quality career pathway program to gain paid work experience, classroom instruction and (in most cases) a nationally recognized credential.
- Industry and career presentations: Employers deliver presentations in the classroom or online that help students learn about a specific industry or career.
- Mock interviews: Students participate in practice interviews to prepare for the real thing.
- College and career mentors: Students benefit from support, guidance and encouragement from a mentor.
- Resume development: Students get expert help developing and refining their resumes.
These straightforward programs can help improve college readiness rates, increase the number of young people in living-wage jobs and, over time, create a larger, more diverse talent pool throughout North Texas.
We Prepare North Texans for Success
At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we create, lead and invest in programs that give students strong pathways to financial security, while also enabling young adults to get and keep better jobs.
Our programs and investments take a holistic approach that helps students prepare academically, develop social and emotional skills to ensure well-being, and connect with mentors and resources to persist and graduate ready for the professional workplace.
We work with several service providers to achieve these goals, including:
- Big Thought, which provides programs for young people in marginalized communities that help prepare them for success in education, work and life
- Cornerstone Crossroads Academy, a second-chance high school located in South Dallas that delivers academic support, vocational preparation and mentorship to at-risk students
- Education is Freedom, which provides college, career and life-readiness programs to help develop a skilled and educated workforce in North Texas
- Education Opens Doors, a turnkey program that gives teachers the content, training and technology they need to help students succeed in school and set post-graduation goals
- ScholarShot, a college completion program that helps college students earn vocational, associate or undergraduate degrees through academic and financial support, mentorship and more
- Step Up, a program that works with girls to prepare them for graduation and empower them to graduate on time
- Uplift Education, whose Road to College program helps prepare students for life after high school and supports them through college and into a career
- Young Women’s Preparatory Network, an initiative that supports college-preparatory, public education for girls, with a goal of giving young women the academic and leadership skills to succeed in college and in life
3 Easy Ways to Be Part of the Movement
As you can see, United Way and many of our partner organizations are highly invested in the success of local people in our region. That’s because improving college and career readiness has a ripple effect throughout an individual’s life—and throughout our community.
Best of all, college and career readiness is something we can all contribute to. Let’s work together, united, to lift up young people throughout North Texas. Be part of the change by volunteering in May to help encourage college and career readiness in our community.
This month, we have three easy ways to get involved:
- Donate to our Career Attire Drive: Donate new or gently used career attire to help North Texans on their career path feel more confident and prepared. Click here to see what items are needed and where to drop them off.
- Share college/career tips for high school students: Help high school seniors prepare for the next stage of their lives by sharing insightful college and/or career tips and advice. Click here to share your thoughts.
- Complete an online survey to share career insights: You can help encourage college and career readiness in elementary students by virtually sharing stories and insights about your career journey. Click here to take the survey.
This article was published on: May 3, 2021