New Beginnings: A Message from Omar
I hope you’re having a wonderful 2020 so far. It’s been a privilege to spend this first month of the year continuing to get to know New Door Ventures’ staff and the important work we do for opportunity youth in the Bay Area. And in the months to come, I look forward to meeting many more of you.
My new beginnings at New Door coupled with kicking off a new year led me to reflect on my past and think about the future – specifically, the future of the workforce and what it takes for young people to become independent, financially stable adults. I was reminded of an editorial by Stephane Kasriel, the former CEO of Upwork:
“The cost of a college education is so high now that we have reached a tipping point at which the debt incurred often isn’t outweighed by future earnings potential. Yet too often, degrees are still thought of as lifelong stamps of professional competency. They tend to create a false sense of security, perpetuating the illusion that work — and the knowledge it requires — is static. It’s not.”
It got me thinking about the young people New Door serves and how they’re experiencing barriers to education much like the underserved communities I worked with for nearly 15 years at CollegeTrack. Through my time in the field, I’ve found that the reasons young people don’t successfully complete college tend to fall into three buckets:
- They’re not yet academically prepared.
- They’re experiencing financial instability.
- They’re overcoming social/emotional barriers.
These factors ring true for so many of the participants in New Door’s programs: unstable housing or a lack of a caring adult in their lives mean they need to pay their own way; they’ve either dropped out of high school or have not had successful experiences in the education system; they are experiencing or recovering from traumatic experiences that make it hard to focus on work and school. Even before they’ve set foot on a college campus, they’re already experiencing multiple barriers to success.
We think that we’re helping young people by encouraging them to get a bachelor’s degree. But, very often, they graduate from four-year colleges saddled with debt and lacking the real-world experience to successfully connect to gainful employment.
This is what attracted me to New Door’s program: early workforce intervention creates an opportunity for young people to invest in themselves with the potential for immediate results. It’s also what happened for me during my four years in the San Francisco Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program as a teen. Working in an office every summer was hugely impactful because it put in my mind what potential career aspirations I could have. It was a springboard to education mindset and what success look like for me.
In addition to picking up administrative skills, I learned about professional communication, office dynamics, timeliness- all things that interns in New Door’s Employment Program are learning through weekly skill-building workshops and their jobs.
All off these experiences made it clear to me that experiential learning needs to go hand in hand with a diploma. We need to make sure our young people are the complete package. Putting the same emphasis on those transferrable, soft skills as my degree are what defined my career.
It also made me realize that a four-year degree isn’t always a viable option for all transitional age youth, and they deserve as much support as those who do decide to go to college. It’s why everyone at New Door is committed to meeting our youth where they’re at, helping them grow skills, and getting them prepared to go into the workforce confident and curious.
New Door’s vision for 2020 and beyond is not only to disrupt the cycle of disconnection that affects nearly 80,000 youth in the Bay Area but also to continue evolving so we can best meet the needs of our young people. Right now, this looks like:
- our newly-launched StepHire program for youth who are ready for that next job and a career path,
- monthly professional development opportunities for graduates,
- remaining committed as ever to ensure diverse job site partners and being intentional about who we partner with,
- and continuing to think about how to position our young people for success not only in jobs, but also in emerging career paths with the changes in the workforce.
I look forward to growing and changing with you in the months to come and providing even more young people in the Bay Area with the critical skills coupled with a supportive community that they need to become financially stable independent adults.
CEO, New Door Ventures