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Juma Ventures’ YouthMade and the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act

by Mallory Valenzuela   •  

At an early age, I noticed that my father jumped from one job to the next and sometimes did not have a steady source of income to support our family. Many times he expressed that he did not have a proper education or access to job training in order to advance his career. This forever changed my outlook on the importance of policy work and providing job-training opportunities on a nationwide scale. I found my opportunity to serve through Juma Ventures, a youth development program operating in six cities across the country. We support employment, college preparation and asset building for low-income youth, and our our mission is aligned with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

At Juma Ventures, we were thrilled at WIOA’s passage earlier this year because we see the impact of hands-on job training aligned to regional opportunities everyday. The principles of WIOA are exemplified in YouthMade, an innovative partnership between Juma Ventures, SFMade and the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation (SBIDC).

YouthMade gives low-income youth direct work experience inside small, urban manufacturing businesses. It is the first program of its kind, and it benefits both youth and employers, as youth acquire transferrable skills and work experience while local business owners get to know this valuable talent pool better, and nurture potential future employees.

In alignment with Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA), youth receive skills training for the 21st century economy and access to tangible career pathways. I had the opportunity to build relationships and relate to the youth during their professional development training.

YouthMade places low-income New York City youth into paid internships with local manufacturing businesses that make everything from clothing to chocolate to jewelry and are located right in their own community. Over the course of the internship, these teens and young adults get to know local entrepreneurs, build their professional skills and experience and have the opportunity to see themselves in a manufacturing career.

As a business administration major and rising sophomore at SUNY Oswego, Tulio Santos interned at Casa Kids in Brooklyn, New York. Tulio said, “Before YouthMade, I was expecting to just gain experience in office work over the summer. I was not expecting to do woodworking. Interning at a place that is mostly hands on is something that you need a lot of internal motivation for and YouthMade training prepared me a great deal.”

In turn, business owners have an opportunity get to know local public high school students from disadvantaged communities and shift their attitudes about the potential to hire from this population. Business owners also gain access to a trained youth workforce that delivers reliable, excellent customer service and measurably improves the efficiency of business operations.

YouthMade leverages SFMade’s and SBIDC’s capacity to develop meaningful job experiences, and Juma’s capacity to provide case management and asset building tools to youth. As a meaningful form of job and skills training, YouthMade utilizes a proprietary industry-driven curriculum and customizes the internship experience at each company. The program includes observation and job shadowing opportunities.

Both very small businesses and medium- to large-sized businesses make good internship sites. There is no one characteristic that makes a business youth-friendly, other than a true understanding of the responsibility that comes with supervising an intern and the availability of meaningful internship experiences and projects. The most important thing is for the business to be organized and responsive enough to participate and for the young person to feel supported throughout the internship.

We measure success by the number of youth completing the internship; business and youth satisfaction levels; growth in youth understanding of the urban manufacturing sector; growth in businesses’ support for hiring youth; and the number of youth who are offered employment post internship.

We know that programs like YouthMade shift the trajectories of teens and young adults who are at risk for falling of track, and that they benefit local businesses. Thanks to the changes made through WIOA, our country has the opportunity to invest in more job training programs like YouthMade. We must take action to help connect the nearly six million teens and young adults who are currently not in school or working – and WIOA and programs like ours can help achieve that goal.


Mallory Valenzuela

Strategic Initiatives Coordinator at Juma Ventures

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