Moving America Forward

How to Get Inner-City Students Into High-End Offices

April 16, 2014
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How to Get Inner-City Students Into High-End Offices
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
The Private Industry Council in Boston helps urban teens land hard-to-get summer jobs.

The teen unemployment rate reached a distressing 20.9 percent in March, according to Next Economy (a joint initiative between the Atlantic and National Journal) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number is especially devastating for kids from poor neighborhoods, who need work and already face significant employment barriers.

But the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) helps fight the problem by placing around 3,000 public high school students in summer jobs that help them develop the skills and connections needed to secure a job after graduation. PIC is a non-profit that has been around for 35 years.

Rayford Laconte, an 18-year-old resident of Roxbury, Massachusetts, is one of the students who found work through PIC. Last summer, PIC garnered him an internship at Genzyme, a biotech company in Boston. After the summer ended, Genzyme offered Laconte a part-time, after-school position with the company, which he happily accepted. After graduation, Laconte plans to work at Genzyme again over the summer to save money for college.

PIC places students at organizations and corporations all over the city, from Genzyme to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Joseph McLaughlin, PIC’s research and evaluation director, told Next Economy that the organization’s private-sector commitment is unique — and especially useful.

“We’re introducing urban high school students to professional environments. That has a payoff to employers as well, since they want to grow their future workforce.”

Throughout the school year, PIC also works to help students by offering resume and mock interview workshops, as well as advising students how to dress professionally and fit into an office environment.

Now that summer’s almost here, PIC and other organizations like it are especially important. Students in Boston and around the country who need work and aren’t sure how to get it could benefit from more programs like this one.

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