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LifeLeap – Training the future – Connecting youth to real work to learn, find their passion, and earn money

Create a mobile platform to connect youth with project based work they can learn real job skills and earn money to support their families and education. In the way that connects employees to project based work we can connect youth to project based in-person to learn and make money. Working with youth in low income neighborhoods, many told stories of dropping out of high school in part because they needed to financially support their families, at the same time they are in need of experience and training to start their careers. Employers can receive entry projects and fresh ideas while youth gain real world experience.

Photo of Sergio Marrero
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Team: If you are interested in joining us email me at We are looking for individuals willing to conduct prototypes and interviews in their area with youth to figure out how connecting them to real world projects would change thier life!

Also SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK! We have integrated from the comments people leave. Thanks again for those that contributed. Keep it coming!

How will it work?
Businesses -small and large, will post projects. Youth can browse the project opportunities on a phone or website and select the projects they are interested in. When youth complete a project they recieve money from the business that goes toward their tuition or/and support their family as well as feedback on how to improve.

Why do you think it might succeed?
Partnerships with businesses that have project based work are key to helping it succeed. Companies can post projects that can be completed virtually or they can post project work that needs to be completed in person. Teachers can follow the project based work they do to help connect them with the appropriate academic material to support their success on those projects.

Why mobile for teens to have access?
Secondary Research
One in 4 teens are "cell mostly" internet users (and love texting)
37% of teens who have smartphones and growing, up from 23% in 2011
91% of all people have cell phones
"cell phone is the most quickly adopted consumer technology in the history of the world"
(Pew Research Center, MARCH 13, 2013, Teens and Technology 2013)

Stories/Quotes from youth interviews
"I want something that I can use where I I can look at it on the train" -Female, 20, Brooklyn, NYC
Insight: She wanted something portable

"Can I apply directly to the job?" (By multiple youth) 
"So they are offering jobs right now? They are hiring right now? [He started putting number in his phone]"-Male, 19, Brooklyn, NYC
"This would be so easy, to go on an app and apply."-Female, 20, Brooklyn, NYC
Insight: They wanted to easily connect to work opportunities

Jobs associated with Target Project Types
Retail Salesperson
Customer Service Representative
Waiters and Waitress
Combined Food Prep and Serving Workers

Models of success / Potential Partners

Where is this happening already?
Common jobs for high school students are retail part-time jobs including working at a store in the mall, at a larger retail outlet like Target, Kohl’s or Wal-Mart, or as a cashier at a local hardware store or small business.

Restaurant and food service jobs may include fast food restaurant workers, cashiers, waiters and waitresses, servers, hosts and hostesses, bus persons, banquet hall servers, or pizza delivery drivers. Also jobs at a grocer store.

Administrative and clerical roles as an entry to business was a central focus for groups as well.

Examples of companies being central in creating school is the Pearl-Cohn Magnet High School where record labels have partnered to create the only high school with a student-run record label partnering with Warner Music Nashville for distribution of recordings. This is an example of the type of partnerships we believe we can be more common for companies and communities if we connect students to project opportunities that are avaliable to gain real work experience. 

Additional directions to consider
Cross regional communication to share best practices (Uwe)

Prototyping / Testing
  • Creat a mock-up of the user interface, put the images on a phone, and have a youth swipe through it to provide feedback
  • Find a company (or companies) that want youth to complete small projects for them and facilitate that interaction between the company and youth.
  • Also find high school teachers interested in aligning project based work with school work and see how the system can support and connect to learning in the classroom.
  • Find a school interested in running an experiment, and use the platform(s) as a source for jobs to try. (Patrick)
  • Interview students, companies, and teachers and discover opportunities for innovation (more research)

Business Model / Sustainability
Companies will pay for projects to be completed by youth. The model can either be that they pay for each project depending on how much work it is or a subscription service. We may also be able to charge for connections to students that are meant to be recruited or data on the youth that best align with their project. These could be additional services that are charged for to sustain the group.

The project payment by the company can go to the school, a student, or a combination. We would take a percentage of the earnings to keep the platform running (similar to how and the other models above work).

Constraints / Considerations
Internet access (wifi) and internet through cell phone carriers (Janet)
Computers or smart phones (especially outside the US)
Based on Fair Labor Standards Act, 14 years old is the minimum age for employment with limits on hours. After 16 it is less restricted.
For longer projects, between age of 14 to 16, there are several school breaks (10-11 weeks in the summer, 1 week in the spring, 1 week in the winter). (Cindy)

Additional Research
Pew Research Center, MARCH 13, 2013, Teens and Technology 2013
Primary interviews with youth, Brooklyn, NY, Summer 2013
Employment Spot Website
Recording Studio Magnet School
School Business Partnerships - Anchorage
San Diego Unified School District
Partners in Education

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

Youth, Companies, and Teachers. Youth that are completing the projects will benefit because they can choose work that aligns with their interests and skills, develop real job skills, and earn money that will help support their academics or families. Companies will benefit because they will get entry level project based work completed, identifying potential entry level hires for full-time opportunities, and getting fresh ideas from youth to help their business. Teachers are able to see youths interests, see feedback from companies, and incorporate into lesson planning to help prepare them for real world work.

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people?

Young people will get the work experience necessary to get an entry level job and build a career. They can partake in different projects in multiple areas of interest in order to define what industry or type of work they really like. They can also get the work experience that will influence what they choose to study in school and will help motivate them to excel. Finally, they will earn money to support there education! (School can be expensive!)

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

(1) Interview students, companies, and teachers and discover opportunities for innovation. More in the 'Prototyping' section in the body of the email.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

Skills/Input/Guidance Input: -Youth that are interested in work and developing this project -Employers that have entry level, project based work -Teachers that are willing to integrate work based projects into the classroom activities

The idea emerged from:

  • An OpenIDEO Meetup

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • Keen to prototype it, find partners and pursue implementation


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sergio Marrero

All, I added a presentation to the group called 'Jobber: Matching Businesses with Local Talent' by Hikmetcan Bilici. He worked on a project that was very similar to this and I think its a perfect opportunity to share learnings and maybe even combine efforts! Please share your thoughts, check out the presentation. Hikmetcan, your awesome! Maybe we can support you in the future research/implementation. Look forward to your posts.

Photo of Hikmetcan Bilici

Hi Team,

First of all I am happy to be part of such great cause. Unfortunately, we have not had a chance to Implement the project as of now. However, from our initial field interviews, we had interest from local small-mid business owners as the project was targeted more towards small-mid business owners.

Photo of Sergio Marrero

Do you have any audio/video from the research I can upload? Or quotes from students and business owners you can share? Just to get insight for the challenges and needs?

Photo of priyanka botny


I am on this. EOD I must be able to make some progress!

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