As a result of COVID-19, summer 2020 looked very different for the staff, students and employers of the Step Up Youth Employment Program. Thankfully, the Step Up program, which is a partnership of the City of Minneapolis, AchieveMpls, CareerForce Minneapolis and Project for Pride in Living, is led by a committed group of creative people who were willing to think far outside the box to make the summer interesting, educational and fulfilling for all 1,800 students who participated.
One new innovation was creating virtual professional development experiences, including a five-week, paid summer online learning program for the more than 1,000 students who were unable to be placed in internships due to COVID-19. Additionally, in a “typical” summer, Step Up interns are required to participate in one, full-day professional development session focused on a career field of their choice. This summer, virtual career panel videos were produced highlighting five industry sectors: education, healthcare, government/human services, business management, and construction/skilled trades. These Step Up participants were asked to watch at least two videos and reflect in writing on what they learned. Ashley Musana, Career Exposure Coordinator for AchieveMpls, secured many community professional volunteers for this project and facilitated the discussion in all five videos.
“It’s so valuable for our students to hear the varied experiences and perspectives local professionals have within their career fields” Ashley said. “And our volunteers love the opportunity to talk about their journeys and express the passion they have for their work. They are so committed to helping students along their career paths.”
Many thanks to the twelve volunteers who participated in these panels, sharing stories of their professional journeys, and speaking truth to the rewards and challenges in their fields. Several Step Up employer partners, including Best Buy, Target and Fairview Health Services, provided volunteers for these panels. Additional volunteers came to AchieveMpls from Knutson Construction, Hennepin Health, LotusBirthWorks, Success Psychological Services, and Thomas Allen Person Centered Services.