How Does City Year Prepare Young Adults for Career in Covid-era? The Answer is In the Numbers.
The 2020 class of City Year San José/Silicon Valley AmeriCorps members (ACMs), 105 accomplished young adults, join the many Americans locally and nationally who are facing unprecedented challenges navigating a tight job market as a result of Covid-19’s impact on the economy. Even before the pandemic, employers expressed difficulty in filling positions with suitable candidates according to SHRM’s 2019 State of the Workplace Report: 83% of surveyed employers had trouble recruiting suitable candidates in the past 12 months. Moreover, 30% of those employers shared that lack of soft skills was the reason for this difficulty.
As employers continue to hire individuals with the right skills for limited positions, how does City Year prepare young adults to not only find employment but also thrive after their graduation? The answer lies in the organization’s newly adopted approach to personnel learning and development – 70:20:10.
What is 70:20:10?
The 70:20:10 model, developed by researchers at the Center for Creative Leadership, provides a broader lens for viewing how learning takes place at work. The core elements of this approach come from establishing where optimal learning takes place: 70 percent of learning comes from hands-on, lived experience on the job; 20 percent comes from learning through others such as social learning, coaching, and collaboration with peers; 10 percent comes from formal coursework and training, such as workshops and events. According to Jalene Pells, Managing Director of Learning and Development, City Year’s adoption of the 70:20:10 model since 2018 has improved the overall ACM learning experience.
“The career interests and backgrounds of AmeriCorps members who join City Year are amazingly diverse and often change year-after-year. With the 70:20:10 model, we have been able to shift our culture of learning to view our mission of mentoring and coaching students as the main way for AmeriCorps members to develop hard and soft skills that will translate to any career. Combining this with intentional coaching experiences and workshops throughout the service year, City Year alumni are equipped with the skills and mindsets needed to succeed in Silicon Valley or wherever their ‘Leadership After City Year’ plans take them.”
Our exit survey data from the 2020 class supports this learning model for career readiness: 82% of AmeriCorps members rated City Year had a positive impact on their career development experience. So what does the 70:20:10 model look like at City Year?
The 70 – Preparing for Career Through Service
Janzen Alejo – now City Year alumnus from the 2020 class – finished two service years with City Year in June 2020, one year as an AmeriCorps member in Los Angeles and a second year as a Senior AmeriCorps member in San José. His journey to City Year is common among incoming AmeriCorps members – City Year would provide the experience he needed to solidify his interest in the field of education. And he found himself in the right place – about 47% of all City Year alumni are working in the education sector (16% of which are teachers). During his service, he felt his interest in teaching heading in a different direction.
“When I first joined City Year in 2018, I believed my future was for me to be an educator in the classroom space. My AmeriCorps year showed me that this path was not what I wanted for my future, but it did help me realize what transferable skills I was developing throughout the year.”
The core work of an AmeriCorps member can be described as a “student success coach”, helping students who often overcome extraordinary obstacles in receiving an education build the academic and socio-emotional skills needed for college and career. In partnership with East San José schools, teams of AmeriCorps members are supporting teachers in the classroom, leading small-group tutoring, and running afterschool programs and events. For Janzen, his fondest memories of service came from witnessing his students grow and believe in themselves.
“There is magic in a child knowing you believe in them. I have seen how quickly I can go from ‘I believe that you can write this paragraph’ to ‘I know you can write this paragraph’ to ‘Wow, you already wrote this paragraph.’”
By making an impact on students and schools year-after-year, AmeriCorps members like Janzen play a key role in advancing educational equity in Silicon Valley. During their year, AmeriCorps members are developing skills such as collaboration, teamwork, relationship building, and project management that are relevant for many career paths. For Janzen, his path after graduation led him to find employment in the education sector, but not in the classroom as he originally planned. Six days after graduation, Janzen started his new role as the Special Projects Assistant for City Year San José/Silicon Valley, leaning on the skills gained from his previous roles.
“My years of service taught me a great deal about juggling different responsibilities and having multiple workstreams. AmeriCorps members wear many hats, and I know that I will benefit from that experience in this new role.”
The 20 – Collaboration Always
One of City Year’s 10 core values is “Students first, collaboration always” – an affirmation that City Year’s best work is achieved by working partnership with others – teachers, administrators, parents, policymakers, and philanthropic partners. AmeriCorps members find that their greatest teachers are the people they work with daily, including school-teachers!
At City Year partner school, Aptitud Community Academy at Goss in Alum Rock Union School District, AmeriCorps members collaborate closely with teachers and staff, bonded by the mutual goal of positively impacting the lives of the students and families at “Aptitud.” This mutual respect and shared learning hallmark the success of City Year according to the former school principal, Maria Manzenado.
“The students recognize that someone with a [City Year] yellow jacket is part of the staff. The teachers really embrace the support from AmeriCorps members…they join them during their planning because many times, what the teachers are teaching in the classroom is reinforced in [City Year’s] afterschool [program].”
In addition to learning through collaboration, 14 Senior AmeriCorps members from the 2020 class were able to learn and grow thanks to the support of career professionals. City Year partnered with pro-bono consultants from Oracle through Silicon Valley Talent Partnership to develop and pilot a formal “Mentorship Program” between January and December 2020. Just as AmeriCorps members are “success coaches” for students, these pilot mentors are “success coaches” for AmeriCorps members, helping them build their skills and mindsets needed for the transition to a career.
The 10 – Bring in the Experts
The question “what is your LACY plan?” permeates through nearly all aspects of an AmeriCorps member’s service year. A LACY plan or “Leadership After City Year” plan is a career development roadmap created by AmeriCorps members to help plan for what comes next after their City Year graduation. From pursuing undergraduate or graduate-level education, joining the workforce, or completing another year of national service, AmeriCorps members have big plans to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others after their year. So how prepared is the 2020 class to navigate a competitive workforce and communicate their newly gained skills from City Year?
- 83% said they are prepared to articulate their service year through a post-secondary application or personal statement
- 82% said they are prepared to articulate their service experience on a resume
- 86% said they are prepared to articulate their service experience through an interview process
Janzen attributes much of his career readiness to the workshops and webinars led by City Year partners and supporters.
“Whether it was from a resume workshop, a LinkedIn training, or my lovely mentor, I learned to take credit for all the work and accomplishments and speak about myself in a positive light, which I believe many in my generation struggle with.”
Through expert volunteers and partnerships, City Year provides robust professional development for AmeriCorps members. For the 2020 class, the first half of the year was hallmarked by regular LACY events, including two special events organized and hosted by Palo Alto Networks and SAP at their campuses, highlighting pathways for pursuing careers in tech. Then, in March 2020, Santa Clara County’s shelter-in-place order impacted nearly every planned LACY event for the remainder of the year. City Year, while restructuring its role supporting students virtually, needed to reassess their remaining LACY events and offerings for the remainder of the year.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, City Year corporate partners and supporters rose to the occasion to provide their expertise and resources to support AmeriCorps members like Janzen.
- Bank of America employees led its “Better Money Habits” financial literacy training, inspiring new opportunities for further training in 2020.
- Centerview Partners employees delivered nearly 12 hours of 1-on-1 resume coaching.
- Deloitte employees facilitated interviewing and mock-interview workshops both locally and nationwide.
- Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP provided City Year with emergency philanthropic funds to help cover unexpected costs due to Covid-19.
- City Year alumni from psychologists, school counselors, and doctors led topic-focused workshops on their career path or field.
Expert volunteers and the greater donor community will have a vital role in the successful development of a workforce-ready 2021 class of AmeriCorps members, a group that will likely need to navigate an unprecedented job market and economic outlook ahead.
A Promise and a Practice
During this period in history where workplaces are constantly changing and reacting to the Covid-19 threat, organizations will need to lean on their values and principles to stay rooted in their mission and vision. For City Year San José/Silicon Valley, its commitment to promoting learning within all aspects of one’s experience at work will remain a guiding principle, empowered by the 70:20:10 model. Yet, learning models, like organizations, have little value on their own. They shine best when surrounded by people, companies, and institutions who believe in its promise and put its principles to practice.
For more information about City Year and how to support its mission, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anthony Rodriguez is storyteller, volunteer manager, and traveler. In his role as the Corporate Development Manager for City Year San José/Silicon Valley, Anthony engages corporations and employees in City Year’s work to support and develop students and young adults. He is two-time national service alumnus with City Year Philadelphia and AmeriCorps VISTA.
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