Professional Development

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Hire Up with The Opportunity Project

Tuesday, 22 March 2022 14:01

In 2017 when The Opportunity Project (The Opp) launched as the new out-of-school time intermediary (OSTI) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, their priority was to build and support OST systems and structures in service of elementary and middle school youth. These initiatives - Relate 918 (a PSELI community) and AfterOpp (The Opp’s signature middle school program) - gained support from both Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) and Tulsa’s youth-serving organizations. Building upon past learnings and current research, in 2021, The Opp expanded its reach in service of high school youth.

While some disparate groups have previously engaged with high school youth, including through some internship initiatives, Tulsa was lacking intentional and comprehensive opportunities geared towards post-secondary pathways, career readiness, and meaningful and relevant learning experiences while in a safe, supportive, and equitable environment.

HIRE Up Pilot

In partnership with TPS, The Opp developed HIRE Up: Holistic Investments in Relevent Experiences for high school youth.

HIRE Up was launched in the summer of 2021 as a pilot four-week paid internship program with scaffolded and wraparound supports. Through HIRE Up, youth are exposed to careers through out-of-school time offerings at their high school and across the district. The program is intended to prepare youth for paid summer employment opportunities and build life skills that will support work readiness, build social capital, increase youth agency and leadership skills, and strengthen healthy relationships with peers and adults. 

During Summer 2021, youth worked four days per week, up to 20 hours, with community partners for $13 per hour, with the fifth day dedicated to cohort professional development centered on career preparation, for a total of up to 25 hours of paid work. 

Data from the pilot indicates youth’s overall experience in the program was positive:

  • 100% reported:
    • Learning something new
    • Developing or improving healthy relationships with their peers
  • 94% reported:
    • Developing or improving healthy relationships with adults
    • Developing or improving their professionalism in the workplace
    • Developing or improving their collaboration and teamwork skills
  • 88% reported:
    • Developing or expanding their professional networks

What’s Next?

Learnings from the pilot - coupled with community and youth needs - have informed The Opp’s efforts to augment the summer HIRE Up paid internship experience with a targeted opportunity for learning throughout the school year. Through intentional district-wide afterschool experiences, targeted seminars, workshops, and career exposure events, high school youth are able to focus their out-of-school learnings towards their post-secondary interests and goals and build towards a paid summer internship.

“A positive experience I had during this program was the social networking I got to do and it went to show that there are so many opportunities for me.” - a HIRE Up Intern 

Written by Amy Anderson, Deputy Director with The Opportunity Project