Internship Program Yields Proven Results for Students, Employers

By Roderick Wheeler

Senior Program Director, Philanthropy, Strada Education Network

Shaquille Brooks now is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in information technology, on full scholarship at Towson University. But a few years ago, while a student at Baltimore’s Digital Harbor High School, he was facing challenges that made that future far from certain.

During 2014-2015 Shaquille had to learn to live on his own and support himself while still in high school. He needed a job that would allow him to keep up with his schoolwork while also helping him pay bills and gain valuable work experience.

Enter Urban Alliance.

Shaquille Brooks
Shaquille Brooks

Shaquille applied to Urban Alliance and began a paid internship at an asset management firm. He earned excellent reviews for his work there, and his Urban Alliance program coordinator — affectionately called “Shaq’s surrogate father” around the organization’s Baltimore office — helped Shaquille stay in line with his academics.

By the end of his internship, Shaquille had made his mark in the workplace, learned valuable on-the-job skills, and graduated from high school with a $1,000 scholarship in hand. The firm hired him as a permanent employee, where he has remained even as he pursued his associate degree at Community College of Baltimore County.

Shaquille recently received that degree before moving on to pursue his bachelor’s.

I love Shaquille’s story of success in the pursuit of education and career. And his story is not an uncommon one among students in the Urban Alliance program. A new report shows long-term positive impact on underserved youth who completed UA’s high school internship program.

Strada Education NetworkSM supports social enterprises, like Urban Alliance, that partner with employers to address the skills gap that leaves too many students without the skills most needed in in-demand careers.

The study found that completing Urban Alliance’s program:

  • Boosted the chances of young men attending college by 23 percentage points.
  • Increased the chances of middle-tier students (those with 2.0-3.0 GPA) enrolling in a four-year college by 18 percentage points.
  • Elevated students’ comfort with and retention of soft skills, especially among young men, with gains remaining one and two years after the internships ended.

Urban Alliance’s high school internship program combines paid internships with six weeks of professional training and one-on-one mentoring during students’ senior year of high school. Urban Alliance’s 225 employer-partners and 88 school-partners are critical in:

  • Helping to integrate work-based skills with education.
  • Exposing students to career pathways through work and mentoring opportunities.
  • Providing significant financial resources, in the form of wages, to support their education goals.

Eshauna Smith, Urban Alliance’s CEO, says, “The study proves what we’ve always believed: that our unique combination of paid internships, one-on-one mentoring, intensive case management, and professional skills training makes a significant impact on a young person’s future achievement.”

Urban Alliance’s national staff and regional teams serve Baltimore; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and Northern Virginia.

Ms. Smith also says that UA’s annual corporate retention rate is 80 percent and climbing. “Our partners are committed to Urban Alliance out of a shared passion for helping students succeed,” she says, “and an acknowledgement that our interns are adding real value to their bottom line, organizational culture, and employee retention and engagement.”

Like Urban Alliance, Strada Education is committed to investing in innovative and impactful solutions that address the skills gap and enhance the talent pipeline — for students like Shaquille Brooks and other success stories like him.