Chicago’s Youth Need Social Capital Too

Opportunity youth are Chicago’s future. Organizations such as Purpose Workforce Solutions and Ignite (Formerly Teen Living Programs) have realized the importance of coming together in order to change the narrative of Chicago.

For far too long, workforce development organizations operated in silos, but with leaders such as Chazle Woodley of Ignite and Chris Thomas of Purpose Workforce willing to unite to further create and promote opportunities available to younger generations, youth’s potential social capital will be able to grow overnight.

Chazle Woodley of Ignite Promise (formerly Teen Living Programs) mentioned:

“It is my belief that the common phrase “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” is only applicable if someone has boots and if that same someone has straps. In many cases, our youth have neither or only one of the two and need both the resources and guidance to provide a better life for themselves. Our youth are not simply our future, but they are in fact our present. Therefore, they are the greatest investment we can make in our community, our society and our nation as a whole.”

Chris Thomas of Purpose Workforce Solutions mentioned:

“The time is upon us to look at hiring as more of a synergistic, community-based approach to make sure everyone has access.”

Matt Strauss of Solve mentioned:

Chicago is all about collaboration, yet it’s challenging to work with the politics and systems that have already been put in place. Fortunately, software and technology can foster collaboration by integrating with existing systems and streamlining processes.”

For most people, the period after high school is a critical moment for determining the direction of their careers. However, a report by Pro Path Funds of research on young adults found that most youth do not self-initiate preparations for “next steps” following graduation, however they can be introduced to them by an outside “guide”. To emphasize further, more young adults can be directed towards a path of more opportunities, of greater career choices, of higher education, of beneficial social capital–– if provided with guidance. Better guidance provided to the youth in Chicago will help Change the Narrative.

Still, interviews conducted by Pro Path Funds found that even though professional guides are highly motivated to help the youth “fully develop into self-sustaining, balanced and fulfilled individuals,” their caseload and additional responsibilities hinder them from giving the youth all the support that is required. Thus, while there are great resources out there already, there is a lot more work that needs to be done to give them the opportunity to succeed.

This is where the collaboration of workforce development organizations come in. Through joining forces and combining their resources and knowledge, leaders of organizations such as Ignite (Formerly Teen Living Program) and Purpose Workforce Solutions will be able to fill the gap of support that youths needed. This type of social capital is pivotal towards their success.

The report by Pro Path Funds explained that many young adults continue to work in the same types of jobs they pursued in highschool, which happen to be jobs that are in plain sight. While most of them understand that there are other options, they lack clarity on how to change paths in the future. It is easy to imagine what a network of organizations composed of leading development organizations can provide here, and that image is of more opportunities and greater futures for our youth.

Coming together, these organizations will be able to maintain a flow of resources to help youth transition to more structural jobs. Opportunity youth need social capital too, and we’re beginning to see leaders emerging in Chicago to provide them with just that, changing Chicagoan youths’ narrative from one of deficient to sufficient amount of resources available to succeed.

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