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Jobs for Low Income Students to Close The College Completion Gap

Provide Skills Based Training+Paid Internship Opportunities for Low-Income and First Gen Students to increase enrollment and retention rates

Photo of Sasha Stewart
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Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it reimagine the cost of college?

The target audience for the solution is Low income and first gen students. The program will offer skills based training+internship programs for college freshman students in variety of industries and sectors, in order to finance cost of college. The program will be financed by Department of Education and Department of Labor (local Workforce Centered under Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act). The program is collaboration between Colleges, Employers, Workforce Centers and Students.

One of the major challenges faced by many low-income and first generation students is the income gap. It looks a lot like chicken and egg: in order to get to school the student needs stable income, but in order to be hired earn income, he has to have training/education/skills.

On the other hand, according to NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) the top five desirable skills in candidates are:

  1. Leadership
  2. Ability to work in a team
  3. Communication Skills (written)
  4. Problem-Solving Skills
  5. Strong work ethics
Image title

Question: knowing that candidates need the skills, how might we create a partnership between colleges/employers/low income student and workforce centers to create a program where students can get paid internship, learn marketable skills, work on real life projects, potentially benefit the community their live in and earn extra cash to go to college?

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Meeting in next two weeks with several Workforce Center leaders to connect and learn how might we build the internships/training program for low income students.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Connecting with like minded individuals in OpenIDEO community? maybe creating a min-blog for low income to college topic?

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • A student collaboration
  • An Individual

Are you interested in the Path to Pitching track we've developed for this challenge?

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ali Harcourt

Hi Sasha,

I just wanted to say i think this is such a great idea! I am currently completing a Co-op internship where i work at various companies and they help me pay for my university fees and I have to say i have definitely improved all five of NACE's 5 most desirable qualities considerably. I would love to know what comes out of your meetings with Workforce Centre Leaders!

Photo of Maria Salamanca

This is a very interesting idea Sasha. I really appreciate how you like then skills needed and the incentives the private market has in supporting education. Would there be work obligations between students and companies?

Photo of Sasha Stewart

Hi Maria, thank you for the comment and the question. I believe the students should commit to certain number of hours every day/week to work on behalf of the host company. On the other hand, since it is a paid internship opportunity, students should have an incentive to continue adding value by creating innovative solutions for the employer, they work with. I envision, employers and students would enter almost a consultant like relationships since students will work on specific project, to resolve specific challenge. In a perfect world, we be great to match employers challenges and students passions...

What do you think, how might we improve the concept by making the idea more robust?

Photo of An Old Friend

Hi Sasha, great idea! As a college student I think this is very interesting. Many schools already place importance on students having internships/work experience to help them find a job when they graduate as a means of gaining skills and professional connections. If there was a way to ensure these opportunities would be available for low-income students, it not only would help them to finance college, but would help them to build skills that would help them to find a great full-time job when they graduate!

Photo of Sasha Stewart

Hi Morgan, thank you for the feedback and the insights. I completely agree with you, it is not only about short term immediate gains but also about long terms career opportunities and skills one could apply later one.