Youth and Young Adult Workers Take the Spotlight in Louisville

I often tell people that one of my favorite things to do in my role leading the National Fund is visiting our collaboratives to get an up close and personal look at how they are helping us realize our vision of building an equitable workforce. Our shared commitment was certainly on display this month during a visit to Louisville hosted by our collaborative, KentuckianaWorks, where I had a chance to learn more about the fantastic work they are leading to engage youth and young adult workers.

KentuckianaWorks is the Louisville region’s workforce development board and they are a long-time member of the National Fund network. They graciously hosted us for our board meeting and treated National Fund staff and board members to a behind-the-scenes tour of a few of their most innovative initiatives.

Our first stop was The Academies of Louisville at Seneca High School — one of 15 schools in a consortium that’s striving to bridge the gap between education and careers. The Academies have more than 18,000 students enrolled in programs throughout the region, and they partner with hundreds of businesses to bring meaningful learning opportunities that allow students to explore career paths. This means access to dual college credit opportunities, internships, and apprenticeships.

Next, we visited The Spot: Young Adult Opportunity Center, a unique program that serves young adults who are not currently working or enrolled in school. The Spot is a partnership between KentuckianaWorks and Goodwill Industries of Kentucky and they are doing tremendous work to support nearly 600 young adults with a host of classes, therapy, and peer connection activities. Here we sat in on a panel discussion with young adults and local employers where they tackled the multifaceted challenges facing youth in the current workforce.

This excellent panel was convened as part of a broader series of discussions taking place through Generation Work™, an initiative the National Fund is implementing in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In Louisville, the partnership is actively working with local companies to promote equitable practice changes that center the needs of young adult workers.

The best part of both experiences was hearing first-hand accounts from young people about how these efforts are impacting their career aspirations. Centering worker voice is a key part of our efforts to shift toward an equitable future and the voices of young people are vital to ensuring we’re headed in the right direction.

I’m deeply grateful to our hosts in Louisville, Michael Gritton — who’s pulling double duty as KentuckianaWorks’ executive director and a National Fund board member — and collaborative director Aleece Smith. We are certainly ending the year on a high note, and I am looking forward to even greater things for the National Fund network in the year ahead!


Amanda Cage

-- President and CEO, National Fund for Workforce Solutions