Heller School’s Center for Youth and Communities Receives $2.5 Million Grant from the Walmart Foundation for 2013 Summer Youth Employability Initiative

July 22, 2013

WALTHAM, Mass. – Today the Heller School's Center for Youth and Communities announced it received a $2.5 million grant from the Walmart Foundation. The grant will directly support summer programs that employ, educate, and support young people as well as efforts to create a national dialogue on enhancing youth employability.

The grant supports competency-based summer jobs that integrate work and learning for 1,200 vulnerable youth in seven communities: Chicago, Detroit, Hartford, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix/Maricopa County, and San Diego. The Center awarded grants ranging from $100,000 to $300,000 to government and nonprofit agencies in these communities to implement the program. Teenagers will work 120 hours over the summer at hundreds of worksites. Heller researchers provide technical assistance to grantees and monitor and evaluate the quality and impact of the programs.

In addition, the Center will create a national dialogue on youth employability development by engaging employers from all sectors to focus on what a young person needs to know and do to enter and succeed in today’s workforce. It will also help empower students to effectively document and communicate their skills to meet employers’ needs.

Professor Susan P. Curnan, Director of the Center for Youth and Communities and study leader for many summer youth initiatives, underscores the power of a competency-based approach to youth employability development: “We describe our approach to the summer program as ‘100% work, 100% learning.’ Summers matter – over the long term, youth who participate in year-round programs or multiple summer experiences intentionally combining work, learning, and support can improve educational outcomes, are less likely to drop out, have less difficulty getting and keeping jobs, and have higher lifelong earnings than those who do not.”

Statistics show the urgency for support from organizations such as the Walmart Foundation. Low rates of high school graduation, high rates of children living in poverty, and low rates of youth employment make a compelling case for providing summer youth employment. Nationwide, the summer employment rate for 16-19 year olds fell from 51.7% in 2000 to about 33% in 2012 – a low not seen in more than 50 years.

At the same time, although unemployment is high, jobs are going unfilled. Employers cannot find enough workers with demonstrated workplace competencies (including basic academic, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills) to meet job demands.

“At Walmart, we recognize the need to support the next generation of our nation’s workforce,” said Julie Gehrki, senior director of the Walmart Foundation. “By working closely with the Heller School’s Center for Youth and Communities at Brandeis University, we are able to help provide youth access to job opportunities and skills training during the summer months so they can return to school more prepared for the future.”

About the Center for Youth and Communities: Making Knowledge Productive for 30 Years at the Heller School, Brandeis University

Within the Heller School’s mission of “knowledge advancing social justice,” the Center’s objective is to “make knowledge productive” and help practitioners and policy makers prepare young people for college, work and life. The work is guided by three goals: 1) using science-based research to improve the quality and impact of programs and policies for youth and communities; 2) strengthening leadership and management in philanthropy, nonprofits and socially responsible businesses; 3) applying results-oriented leadership and evaluation methods to deepen public understanding, strengthen programs, prove the efficacy of particular models and shape policies.

About Philanthropy at Walmart

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are committed to helping people live better through philanthropic efforts. By operating globally and giving back locally, Walmart is uniquely positioned to address the needs of the communities it serves and make a significant social impact within its core areas of giving: Hunger Relief and Healthy Eating, Sustainability, Career Opportunity and Women’s Economic Empowerment. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are leading the fight against hunger in the United States with a $2 billion commitment through 2015. Walmart has donated more than one billion meals to those in need across the country. To learn more about Walmart’s giving, visit foundation.walmart.com.