Now is a perfect time for employers to reflect on the importance of supporting youth employment programs and jobs for the future.

When young people are connected to employment and real-world workforce experiences, they earn a paycheck, learn about navigating the professional world and workplace dynamics, and gain other valuable skills and perspectives.

Meanwhile, employers develop the next generation of talent and provide an important pathway to economic opportunity and a stronger community.

In fact, studies show that employment-based learning, such as apprenticeships and internships, can help young people’s employment outcomes earlier in their career, leading to the faster accumulation of wealth.

But right now, many young people looking for jobs lack the access and resources they need to succeed.

With emerging demands for early exposure to jobs, specialized training and workforce skills, many young people are at risk of being left behind in a fast-changing job market if they don’t gain workforce experience, education and on-the-job training.

One of many ways Bank of America in Wichita helps youth gain necessary real-world experience is through the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas.

Through this public-private partnership, the Workforce Alliance works to connect students to jobs and helps them gain workplace exposure, focusing on areas of Wichita where poverty is highest.

Workforce Alliance operates a program called HYPE, Helping Youth Prepare for Employment, a partnership of the City of Wichita, the Wichita YMCA, Wichita State University and the public school system.

HYPE offers a variety of different programs for Wichita students, including the Youth Employment Program.

YEP allows students to attend summer workshops where they learn the fundamentals of business etiquette, customer service, money management, resume writing and interview prep in a variety of different business sectors.

After completing the program, YEP helps students land jobs.

Bank of America Wichita has long supported the Workforce Alliance and YEP, helping create access to pre-employment workshops for an additional 1,000 students.

Earlier this summer, the bank hosted the HYPE program, where students learned about the banking industry and heard from employees about their roles within the company.

There is no doubt that the private sector can contribute to these opportunities, as we are well-positioned to help address youth unemployment both within our own companies, as well as with other municipal and community programs.

We encourage others to consider investing in a year-round youth employment strategy with a focus on functional skills, access to local professional opportunities, career growth and mentorship.

By doing so, companies will not only improve the current and future lives of young people, but also help grow Wichita’s economy, build a diverse talent pool of future professionals and strengthen the communities we call home.

Rocky Genz is a senior vice president of Bank of America, Wichita, and Amanda Duncan is vice president and chief business development officer, Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas

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