Juma Employer Partnerships: Connecting Youth to Opportunity

Juma Graduate, Tuyen, at an internship she applied for through a Juma Partnership.


“Over the past year I’ve really been looking hard at what the best way to create an employer partnership is and what a strong one looks like for both the youth and the employer,” says Lindsey Coonan, Juma’s Director of Strategic Partnerships. “We believe in our youth and we believe they have something unique and special to offer.” Lindsey joined Juma in 2018 to drive the growth of our corporate employer partnerships, creating opportunities for our graduating youth to gain permanent employment.   

The job market has changed in the three years since Juma first created its rubric to guide employer partnerships. In 2016, the economy wasn’t as strong as it is today and competition for talent has only increased. This is not only true for our industry partners in retail, hospitality and logistics, but other high demand sectors such as advanced manufacturing and healthcare that offer multiple career paths to a living wage. “In assessing new employer partners, what we’ve heard from the young people in our program over the last three years is that they do not feel ready to choose a specialized career path. What they’re looking for is a chance to learn transferable skills and be exposed to new opportunities. Rather than closing in on a specific career, they want to see all of the doors that are open to them and understand what skills, knowledge and credentials are necessary to gain for when they’re ready.” As a result, Lindsey is increasingly focused on corporate partners that support this goal, and the addition of education partnerships and career exposure programming within YouthConnect to ensure our young people leave Juma with their next job and a career plan.

Lindsey explains that, in practice, looks like a combination of the Juma job where youth learn transferable skills, participation in career tours and industry panels, and working with a dedicated Program Coordinator to learn how to plan for the education and career pathways they ultimately choose. “We aren’t just setting them up for success for the next six months, we want them to leave Juma with the tools and resources to make career decisions for many years to come.”

In considering new corporate partnerships, Lindsey also quickly realized the key to a youth-centered model might have been under her nose all along: the Juma job. “Youth that thrive at Juma–youth who show up for their shifts, who are driven and motivated–they are thriving in a very particular atmosphere. They have the support of an Enterprise Manager who is focused on their personal and professional development. They’re working in a fun, dynamic environment with thousands of fans, music, sports, and interaction with hundreds of new people every shift. We realized that in pipelining our young people into their next step, what we should really be seeking is jobs that mimic the positives of the Juma environment. So we’ve been looking at partnerships where we can replicate those aspects of the Juma job we know our youth enjoy.”

Over the past year, Lindsey has also worked with youth and Program Coordinators across sites to create new ways to ease the transition for youth out of the supportive Juma environment and into a new role. “We had a pivotal experience with one young person in San Jose,” Lindsey recounts. “After completing the program, Juma helped her get a job at MOD Pizza, but after a few months she told her Program Coordinator that she was getting fewer and fewer shifts. She was frustrated and was on the verge of quitting. After first coaching her to advocate for herself, and ask for more shifts, not much changed. Her Program Coordinator reached out to the supervisor at MOD Pizza to understand why. It turned out that the youth was showing up late consistently. The Program Coordinator took this as a teachable moment, and was able to act as an intermediary and help get that young person back on track.” With Juma’s support, and a greater understanding of her employer’s expectations, the youth decided to give MOD Pizza a second try. Today, she has worked with them for a year and a half and has been promoted three times, received three raises, and become a supervisor.

“So far employers have been very excited about the opportunity to work with Juma because they realize they can increase retention, and gain support in advancing their diversity, equity, and inclusion work which is a challenge to implement on the frontlines of management. We run a business doing exactly that with young people who are growing and learning on the job–and we can help employers do the same thing.”  In 2019, Juma will expand the partnership program to place young people across the U.S. into jobs with corporate partners in the retail, hospitality and logistics industries such as Gap Inc., Costco Wholesale, and MOD Pizza. “Ultimately, we want to empower youth to learn transferable skills that open new doors and then be ready to take advantage of those opportunities when they decide which ones they want to pursue. While we’re still learning all the time, we’re optimistic about the possibilities for the future.”

To learn more about Juma’s partnership program, contact Lindsey Coonan via LindseyC@juma.org.


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