Keystone Policy Center commits to working with the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) to recruit employers who will partner with PRDE to design and offer work-based learning (WBL) opportunities to high school students in Puerto Rico. These partnerships will provide students with exposure to various career pathways and the skills needed to secure employment upon graduation, as well as strengthen the local workforce in high-demand industries.
Keystone Policy Center will establish and support the operation of an independent entity - a WBL Hub - that will coordinate partnerships between PRDE and employers, recruit new employers, provide technical support, elevate public awareness, and advocate for the program in the public and private sectors. Keystone will (1) work with PRDE to establish a Champion’s Circle of employers who commit to being among the first to offer WBL opportunities, (2) support the recruitment of employers to commit to offering WBL opportunities, (3) support the development of a “Puerto Rico Youth Works” web-based portal to highlight the benefits of WBL, list available opportunities, and provide resources to employers, students, and educators, and (4) provide technical support to PRDE and participating employers, including linking students to opportunities, providing resources to inform the operation of the WBL Hub and employer strategies, and monitoring progress of the program. This will also include quarterly working convenings and an annual summit.
Together, partners will be advocates for the program and expect to place at least 2,000 students in WBL opportunities across at least 50 employers by June 2020. Five new partner employers will be added each quarter, including small and large businesses with operations in each region of the island, and approximately 75% of students that apply will be accepted into a program aligned with their interests. This commitment is an expansion of an initiative that began in the summer of 2018. Expansion in 2020 will be informed by needs identified in the first year.
Q1, 2019: (1) Establish WBL Hub; (2) Hold next employer convening; (3) Support PRDE in following up on, solidifying and structuring all 200+ opportunities committed in November and matching students with these opportunities; (4) Author a report on the input and feedback from the November Summit and a roadmap forward; (5) Recruit five new employer partners.
Q2, 2019: (1) Hire and onboard a program director for the WBL Hub; (2) Plan and hold employer convening; (3) Identify advocacy and public awareness needs and strategies; (4) Conduct a third student survey to identify student interests; (5) Support employers identified during Q1 and PRDE in the structuring of specific WBL opportunities, selection processes and program content; (6) Develop framework for a “Puerto Rico Youth Works” web portal for students, employers, educators and families; (7) Identify resources for web development; (8) Recruit five new employer partners.
Q3, 2019: (1) Launch public awareness campaigns; (2) Match 500 students with WBL opportunities; (3) Continued support of PRDE Career & Technical Education (CTE) & WBL leaders; (4) Plan annual workforce summit; (5) Launch “Puerto Rico Youth Works” (subject to resources); (6) Recruit five new employer partners.
Q4, 2019: (1) Plan and support annual workforce summit; (2) Conduct student survey; (3) Assess 2019 outcomes; (4) Recruit five new employer partners.
Q1, 2020: (1) Host convening of partners; (2) Match 500 students with WBL opportunities; (3) Continued support of PRDE CTE & WBL leaders; (4) Recruit five new employer partners.
Q2, 2020: (1) Conduct student survey; (2) Match 800 students with WBL opportunities; (3) Continued support of PRDE CTE & WBL leaders; (4) Host convening of partners (5) Recruit five new employer partners.
The partners anticipate holding at least four working sessions or convenings of partners and potential partners in addition to an annual workforce summit. Throughout the course of this Commitment, the partners will provide WBL opportunities to 2,000 students in Puerto Rico.
In Puerto Rico, nearly 60% of children are estimated to live in poverty following 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria. Equipping Puerto Rico’s students with the skills and opportunities needed to succeed in the labor force is not only key to the island’s recovery, but also to breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty. There is a mismatch today between labor market needs and the opportunities students have to gain the skills to succeed in those jobs. Additionally, because of the lower relative wages on the island, many mainland U.S. employers actively recruit the younger prospective employees in Puerto Rico who possess high-demand skills.
Despite growing opportunities and workforce needs in various sectors in Puerto Rico, too many students do not graduate with the necessary skills to fill these needs. Students face employment challenges upon graduation, and employers face workforce shortages. Despite increased educational attainment overall among youth in Puerto Rico, many of the career skill development programs students have available do not align with Puerto Rico’s largest or fastest growing occupations. Where programs are aligned, the availability of different career focused work-based learning (WBL) vary greatly by region. The young people of Puerto Rico need and deserve to be equipped with the knowledge of the opportunities available to them and the skills to succeed in the local economy.
Keystone Policy Center is looking for employers who are (1) based in, or (2) have a workforce in Puerto Rico to partner with PRDE to develop and offer internships, apprenticeships and other WBL opportunities to students in Puerto Rico. Based on economic data and student interest, there is particular interest in employers in construction, hospitality, manufacturing, computers/technology, and finance.
Keystone Policy Center is also seeking funding for the creation and launch of the WBL Hub, which will be used to coordinate partnerships between PRDE and employers, recruit new employers, provide technical support, elevate public awareness, and increase the number of students who are able to participate. Keystone is seeking $220,000 in annual funding. Keystone expects the program to secure additional grant or corporate sponsorship to match this funding by 2020 and that the program can be financially sustainable through corporate and government grants by the end of 2020.
Keystone would welcome the opportunity to partner with, and provide technical support to, organizations, employers, and government agencies interested in developing similar programs or in expanding or assessing the quality of existing WBL programs in locations outside Puerto Rico. Keystone can offer in-depth expertise on career readiness strategies, work-based learning, facilitating public-private partnerships, public policy, and policy advocacy, and in planning and managing stakeholder engagement. In addition, Keystone can support partnerships with economic and workforce data analysis, national research on WBL and CTE, strategic support to state and local education agencies, technical support to employers, and expertise in community, and government awareness efforts. Keystone will draw on this expertise to support employers who partner with PRDE and would welcome collaborations to leverage Keystone’s expertise and the lessons learned through the work in Puerto Rico to support other partnerships.