Two new briefs from the National League of Cities' (NLC) Insitute for Youth, Education, and Families highlight the ways in which afterschool and summer learning programs help develop students’ college and career readiness and in turn support the economic success of cities. For students, future success is influenced by academic success, development of social and emotional and foundation skills, school attendance, graduation, the development of social emotional skills and competencies, and knowledge of future opportunities. In communities where students are not receiving the supports and guidance to assist in their success, the economy suffers from a lack of a workforce with the skills and prerequisites to fill jobs and support economic development. Afterschool and Summer Learning: A City Strategy to Support College and Career Readiness and Afterschool and Summer Learning: A City Strategy for Workforce Development highlight the challenges that cities face preparing young people for future success, the impact those challenges have on a city's economy, and how afterschool and summer learning programs provide solutions.
Students and cities face many challenges that impact the future economy
In A City Strategy for Workforce Development, the authors show that a vibrant economy is dependent on an abundant workforce of qualified, passionate, and satisfied workers. The report outlines that currently, businesses lose $3 billion annually due to childcare-related employee absences and spend more than $164 billion per year on employee education and training to improve workforce skills. These expenses indicate a clear challenge for employees with children to find comprehensive childcare solutions, as well as a need for qualified workers entering into the labor market. The authors also highlight that studies show 92 percent of business executives believe that Americans do not have the skills they need to do the jobs of today or tomorrow, and as the market for labor changes, the challenge to fill positions is increasingly difficult.
While employers face challenges filling positions, students across the country are struggling to succeed. A City Strategy to Support College and Career Readiness connects workforce challenges back to student success. The report outlines students' ongoing battle with chronic absenteeism, low academic achievement, and lack of awareness and exposure to college and career opportunities that limit their possibilities for the future - especially for low-income students. For example, the authors show that an estimated 5 to 7.5 million students in the U.S. miss nearly a month of school each year, impacting academic achievement and opportunities for college and career. Missing school now can also have a substantial effect on the economy in the future: where chronically absent students are less likely to complete high school, 90 percent of students who drop out of school are not qualified for 90 percent of new jobs.
Afterschool and summer learning programs provide solutions
Both briefs demonstrate how afterschool and summer learning programs are solutions to these challenges. Afterschool and summer learning programs provide safe, academic, and enriching environments that address the needs of students. The authors show that participation in an afterschool program has been associated with improved school attendance, engagement, grades, and test scores. By providing students with academic support, caring adults, and mentorship, afterschool programs can help students stay on track for their futures. The brief includes a survey of 25,000 children served by an afterschool program in 140 locations worldwide, 80 percent of alumni reported the program was the most important source for pursuing a career and 97 percent said it taught them to set high goals and expectations for themselves. Additionally, the authors note that afterschool and summer learning programs provide important supports for parents. Nationally, 75 percent of parents agree that afterschool programs give parents peace of mind while they are at work, and a study of Boys & Girls Clubs in California found that their programs enable more parents to keep their jobs.
Beyond these supports, the authors continue that afterschool and summer programs provide students with opportunities to build skills that will help them in school and the workforce, showing that students who participate in afterschool and summer learning programs learn valuable social-emotional skills that are transferable across academic and work environments, as well as technical skills directly applicable to future careers. Many afterschool and summer learning programs additionally provide their students with opportunities for internships and exposure to new careers and opportunities, while providing the necessary supports and guidance for students interested in pursuing higher education.
City-afterschool partnerships can and do work
On top of the data, both briefs highlight partnerships between city government and afterschool and summer learning programs that show that these types of supports and interventions work. For example, the Lighthouse Program (Bridgeport, Conn.) was created by Mayor Joseph Ganim in 1993 and is run by the city's Department of Youth Services. The program represents a 25-year city-school partnership with a $1.5 million investment from the city, $840,000 from district 21st Century Community Learning Center funding, and $485,000 in state afterschool funding. Since opening, the Lighthouse Program has served more than 2,600 students, and a 2015 evaluation of the program found that student participants in the third and fifth grades were 25 to 33 percent more likely to meet or exceed achievement levels in reading and/or math than non-participants.
After School Matters (Chicago, Ill.) has served 200,000 teenagers since it was launched in 1991 by former Chicago first lady Maggie Dale and former Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Loise Weisberg. Since 2011, the mayor's office has nearly doubled the city's annual investment in the program resulting in expanded access across the city. The program is based off an apprenticeship model that provides paid internship experiences in organizations and companies across Chicago. Students that participate in the program have higher attendance rates, lower rates of course failure, and higher graduation rates than comparable non-participating students, and almost all participants in the program report having a plan after high school.
In Orlando, Fla., the After-School All-Stars program has served 3,600 middle and high school students since its formation in 1995. Originally formed by Mayor Glenda Hood, the initiative has been strongly supported by current Mayor Buddy Dyer. Housed in City Hall, the program represents the mayor's commitment to developing city students’ workforce skills. The program additionally operates a Career Exploration Opportunity Jobs Academy program that connects youth to more than 1,000 workforce mentors. Of After-School All-Stars participants, 94 percent of middle school students passed a course that includes testing in career knowledge, financial literacy, and science, technology, engineering, and math skills.
Read the full briefs for more information on how afterschool and summer learning programs support cities, and check out our webinar and issue brief, Building students’ workforce skills in afterschool.
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