Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP) is a philanthropic organization that utilizes the venture capital model of investing to assist and partner with nonprofits in the Greater Washington, DC region.1 In 2010, VPP created the youthCONNECT Network in the Washington metropolitan area—an effort to bring together high-performing nonprofit organizations to better the educational achievement, career outcomes, and healthy behaviors of youth ages 14 to 24.1 In 2015, VPP added youthCONNECT to Ready for Work, its initiative to promote career- and college-readiness among high school students in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Ready for Work—a collaboration between VPP, Prince George’s County, and five local nonprofit organizations—was a three-pronged strategy to improve student outcomes in three Prince George’s County high schools: Suitland High School, High Point High School, and Oxon Hill High School. The three Ready for Work strategies are as follows:
This brief is one of five products that summarize key findings from Child Trends’ implementation evaluation of the three Ready for Work strategies. The information in this brief will be useful for schools or school districts interested in learning from a case study of how an initiative like Ready for Work was implemented. The lessons learned from Ready for Work can help schools and their leaders better understand their role in such an implementation.
Partnerships between schools and nonprofit organizations have previously been found effective for bolstering youth’s college and career readiness, a priority agenda item among many secondary schools across the nation. Recent research has pointed to growing gaps in the current needs of the workforce, and a lack of career skills and education among youth plays a large role in this gap.2 A report by UNICEF and World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Future of Work warned that young people lack the necessary skills for future employment and that employers are struggling to hire staff that meet their company’s needs. The report recommends that business play a role in providing youth with the skills they need to have successful careers.3 School partnerships with employers and community organizations may help address gaps between employers’ needs and potential employees’ skills by engaging youth in their communities and exposing them to job opportunities.
The brief begins with an overview of Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) and Suitland High School (SHS) to contextualize some of the successes and challenges experienced throughout the initiative’s implementation. Next, we highlight several reasons for the success of Ready for Work at SHS, which implemented all three strategies and had the most comprehensive adoption of the initiative’s youthCONNECT model. We then describe some challenges from implementing Ready for Work at SHS—and lessons learned from those challenges—to improve implementation of similar initiatives.
For this brief, we obtained data from interviews with Prince George’s County administrators, PGCPS staff, SHS faculty and staff, and VPP staff (collectively referred to as “respondents” in this brief), all of whom have varying degrees of involvement in the Ready for Work initiative and/or the implementation of Ready for Work at SHS specifically.
1 Investment Profile – Ready for Work. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.vppartners.org/investments/ready-for-work/
2 Education Strategy Group. (2017, August). Destination known: Valuing college and career readiness in state accountability systems. Retrieved from https://edstrategy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Destination-Known.pdf
3 UNICEF and WBCSD. (2021, July). Empowering the workforce of tomorrow: The role of business in tackling the skills mismatch among youth. UNICEF. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/media/103176/file/Empowering%20the%
Gilbertsen, J., Peckoo, S., Carney, M., & Andrews, K. (2022). Lessons for Partners in School-Based Initiatives From Ready for Work at Suitland High School. Child Trends. https://doi.org/10.56417/4105t704r
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