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Partnerships for Career Opportunity: Purpose Driven Paychecks Launches Year Two

Career Academies students stand together as a part of a program that prepares them for work in healthcare

Longkee Vang


Last summer, Greater Twin Cities United Way launched Purpose Driven Paychecks, a new equity-focused investment in school-business partnerships through Career Academies. Today, I'm excited to share more details about our second year of Purpose Driven Paychecks.

United Way launched Purpose Driven Paychecks (PDP) to catalyze school-business partnerships to fill the gaps that exist in our current educational system so all students have access to wealth-building, purpose driven careers. We're proud to support partnerships who share our vision of equity and center their design on students furthest from justice: Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American, Pacific Islander and/or Students of Color, students with a disability and/or students from low-income households.

Learn more about our vision for PDP in this piece from 2022.

This year, we’re excited to deepen the impact of PDP – by continuing to cultivate partnerships from our first year, and by introducing new organizations to our cohort of partners.

Continuing Partnerships to Deepen Impact

The Itasca Area Schools Collaborative (IASC), a partnership of 7 school districts located in Greater Minnesota, is one of the organizations returning to Purpose Driven Paychecks for our second year. IASC partners with local manufacturing businesses – which offer high-wage, high-demand jobs in the region – to provide work experiences to students living in historically under-invested communities. In the first year of PDP, we provided funding for IASC to work with employers and increase hourly wages for students, from $12.50 per hour to $15 per hour. Students also participated in a mentorship program that connected them with adult professionals for on-the-job feedback and assistance.

During that first year, IASC noticed that students needed more support in developing self-advocacy and self-confidence skills – critical for their future success. In the coming school year, the partnership will introduce a new student advocate position to support students and families in cultivating these skills. They will also support students with logistical barriers like access to transportation; provide one-on-one assistance with class scheduling; and communicate with the parents/guardians about post-internship opportunities that are available for students.

“We're hoping the student advocate can support and connect them with resources in the community so they can gain the skills to be successful,” said Scott Patrow, Career Pathways Director at IASC.

New Partnerships for Equity

Hmong American Partnership (HAP), a non-profit organization supporting Hmong and Southeast Asian communities, is one of our new partners for Year Two of Purpose Driven Paychecks. A core component of their work is the Youth Job Skills program, which connects individuals between the ages of 16-24 to career exploration and jobs skills training.

In the upcoming 2023-2024 school year, Hmong American Partnership will work with Community School of Excellence (CSE) to launch their brand-new Certified Nursing Assistant pathways program. Through this experience, 20 students will be able to take career exploration classes at CSE, then transition to St. Paul College to complete their clinical training and job specific instruction. Students will then be placed in work experiences that will pay them $15 per hour, with hiring priority for long-term employment in the future.

HAP’s work is rooted in multicultural and multi-generational approaches for participants. On top of linguistic and cultural barriers, students from Southeast Asian communities are also navigating the intricacies that come with being children or grandchildren of immigrants and refugees. They often may not have access to adults within their immediate family that can provide college and career guidance, or to help them connect their current schooling to their plans for the future. To address these challenges, HAP will provide culturally relevant, one-on-one mentorship opportunities for students to engage with industry professionals. Students will also receive individualized wraparound support like case management and child care access to ensure successful completion of the program.

What’s Next for Purpose Driven Paychecks

Over the next year, Purpose Driven Paychecks will result in 600 students obtaining quality work experiences and 257 students receiving new jobs. The work kicks off this summer and continues through the coming school year.

Together with our partners, Career Academies will continue to work towards our vision to unite public education and employment systems so that all students in Minnesota have access to wealth-building and purpose-driven careers.

The organizations supported in our second year of Purpose Driven Paychecks are:

  • City of Hopkins
  • Genesys Works Twin Cities
  • Goodhue County Education District
  • GPS Education Partners
  • Hmong American Partnership
  • Itasca Area Schools Collaborative
  • Minneapolis Public Schools
  • Native Skywatchers
  • Project for Pride in Living
  • St. Louis Park High School

Stay Connected

About the Author

Longkee Vang is a Program Officer for Career Academies at Greater Twin Cities United Way. He helps lead the program’s community of practice, evaluation and innovative grantmaking initiatives. Longkee has worked in various roles in youth development for over 10 years, and is a strong advocate for leadership development, youth employment and student-centered equity. He was a NorthStar Youth Worker Fellow in 2018, and a member of the 2019-2020 Neighborhood Leadership Program Cohort.

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