Skills Training Nonprofit Launches Coaching Program to Help Opportunity Youth Transition to the Workforce

  • In Collaboration With Student Success Pioneer Insidetrack, Propel America Will Offer Personalized Coaching to Help High School Graduates Access Education and Career Opportunities

Propel America, a non-profit organization that was founded in 2019 to unlock education and career opportunities for young adults in low-income communities, announced a new initiative that will harness the power of one-on-one coaching. In collaboration with InsideTrack, the organization will build a corps of coaches over the next two and a half years who will support high school graduates as they navigate the complexities of career training, preparation and navigation.

“Too often, students from economically disenfranchised communities must choose between taking on low-wage jobs with limited growth potential or risking long-term debt by pursuing a traditional college degree. We believe there is a third way that is a better and more equitable alternative,” said Paymon Rouhanifard, co-founder and CEO of Propel America. “Our work is about creating an alternative model to help young adults access a faster and more affordable pathway to good-paying jobs. Providing intensive coaching and wrap-around support is a foundational component of our jobs-first education strategy.”

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Nationally, there are 4.6 million youth ages 16-24—so-called “opportunity youth”—who are not enrolled in school or working. Even as traditional college enrollments continue to decline, the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. labor market consists of “middle skills jobs” that require less than a four-year college degree.

An alternative to traditional college-to-career pathways, Propel America helps recent high school graduates (aged 18-24) access the technical training and education and support needed to succeed in good-paying jobs after high school. To date, the non-profit has piloted this program in Camden, N.J.Baton Rouge and northern LouisianaProvidence, R.I.; and western Massachusetts and has plans to grow. Its unique model helps to forge connections between high school students and local job-training organizations, colleges, and employers.

Backed by financial support from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and Strada Education Network, Propel America will team with InsideTrack to enhance its existing internal coaching program designed to help participating students navigate the non-academic barriers to success. Drawing on InsideTrack’s 20-year history of providing evidence-based student success coaching, the Propel America team will train and certify its staff on advanced coaching techniques and build the infrastructure to sustain the program over time.

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“Students often face an impossible choice between gaining experience and income in the workforce or taking on debt to pay for college. It too often creates a false dichotomy between short-term economic rewards and long-term mobility that for too many students may ultimately lead to neither,” said Ruth Bauer White, president of InsideTrack. “This work is about reducing the financial and personal barriers to success for young people who are just beginning their careers, helping them to develop an educational and professional foundation to build on for many years to come.”

Propel America’s unique model starts with a bootcamp for recent high school graduates and GED completers ages 18-24, where students begin an intensive career exploration and planning process and learn and refine essential skills for completing their job training program. Students then join a cohort of fellows to learn about and train for specific career paths, followed by a career transition phase where students receive job placement support from a network of established employer partners. Fellows receive ongoing support and coaching, provided at no cost to them, along with stipends to cover basic needs while they are in training.

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