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Summer Careers Academy to partner with UNC, other organizations to improve program

The graduates of the 2022 Summer Careers Academy are pictured at the cohort's graduation ceremony. Photo courtesy of Trevor Holman.

The Summer Careers Academy will welcome its second cohort of students this year after a successful launch in 2022. The application period for students interested in joining the 2023 cohort ended on Feb. 10.

Building Our Future, the SCA's inaugural program, is an eight-week Registered Youth Apprentice program in the skilled trades for young adults, aged 16 through 24, who are unrepresented and underserved in the community. 

According to the program's website, BOF gives participants new skills and paid work experiences in a "promising career pathway."

SCA is expanding the program for both students and employers this summer by recruiting a group of 20 students — 5 more students than last year's group. The program hopes to expand BOF to other North Carolina counties by 2025. 

Additionally, the steering committee that governs SCA is working to expand the model for other programs in high-demand, high-paying career pathways like health care, life sciences, information technology and cybersecurity.

Chapel Hill Council member Tai Huynh, who helped start the program in March of 2021, said he would like to expand the participants' sector to adults instead of just young students. Huynh hopes to do so by adding partnerships in other counties through the North Carolina community college system, he said. 

The program will also be partnering with the UNC Department of Public Policy, according to Katie Loovis, vice president for external affairs at The Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro. 

“I am happy to report that students from UNC-Chapel Hill in the Department of Public Policy have accepted a proposal from the Summer Careers Academy to conduct a feasibility study to help us figure out what should be the next industry that we expand into,” Loovis said.

Last summer, 100 percent of participating students completed the program and 80 percent earned the N.C. Registered Youth Apprenticeship Certificate for completing all academic and work experience requirements. 

By the end of the program, the majority of students reported that they were interested in a career in the skilled trades. 

Five out of 15 received job offers and four accepted positions at Bryant-Durham Services, Brown Brothers Plumbing and Heating, The Lundy Management Group and Green Horizon One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning. Others continued their studies in state high schools or colleges. 

SCA also provides students with critical support services such as food, transportation, language and career services.

“I strongly believe, and I think our entire team does, that our secret sauce and the reason for that 100 percent completion rate was our ability to provide wraparound support for all of our participants,” Huynh said.

Loovis said these services are designed from the start to ensure that participants are set up for success regardless of where they come from or the barriers they face.

Loovis added that last year's biggest takeaway was that the program requires hard work, focus and collaboration from partnerships in the Chamber. 

Christopher Rhoden, an SCA graduate, said he entered the program to see where it could take him, and is now employed as a maintenance technician at The Lundy Management Group.

He said that even if the career that someone learns there isn't right for them, they can learn from that and gain a better understanding of what they're going to do with their life. 

Huynh said that moving forward, he wants to ensure every student will have support. If they were unable to offer such services they would not offer the program, he said.

He added that, as the program evolves, he wants it to continue having a focus on equity as a core mission.  

Willam Goldsmith, a UNC public policy professor, said he will be overseeing the group of students that are conducting the study as their capstone project. 

The project will be completed by the end of April, Loovis said. 

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“The students are going to do a lot of research to try to get a sense about what the options are, and provide some recommendations to the Summer Career Academy about what it might look like and what they should think about as they're thinking about what the next industry is,” Goldsmith said.


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