"We must create structured, affordable bridges for high school graduates to attain economic prosperity. This is critical now more than ever, as we start to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic," said Propel Co-Founder and CEO Paymon Rouhanifard. "That’s why we’ve developed, alongside our employer partners, a sustainable jobs-first higher education model that can not only be achieved but scaled to serve millions of American learners and workers."
Starting today, young adults, known as "fellows," enrolled in the program will engage in asynchronous and Zoom-based, online courses; receive wraparound support from a trained coach and a modest stipend ; and earn hands-on experience through an externship with a designated, local employer partner. Upon the successful completion of their coursework and externship, the employer partner will offer each fellow an interview for a full-time job with competitive pay. The fellow will also be positioned to continue to build their credits into an associate or bachelor’s degree.
Kobe Manshack, a recent high school graduate from Haughton, La. and current fellow, said he aspires to be a medical assistant because it’s a stable career and a way to give back to his community.
"You can also move up in the medical field," Manshack added. "That’s what I really love. The medical assistant job will be a foot in the door—a good one—and then I can move up."
The program launch follows a recent report showing an unprecedented decline in college enrollment. Nearly 500,000 fewer students enrolled at U.S. community colleges this spring, a decline of 9.5 percent. The nation’s overall postsecondary decline was just over 600,000 students, or 3.5 percent, with undergraduates accounting for all of the decrease. Fall enrollment data released earlier this year was just as grim, particularly for graduates from high-poverty high schools.
At the same time, the unemployment rate among youth spiked to nearly 30 percent during the pandemic. Today, more than 5 million 16-to-24 year olds are neither working nor enrolled in school.
"Millions of young adults, particularly those from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, are pressed into an unfortunate dilemma: forestall income and accrue debt in pursuit of a traditional college degree or forestall education altogether in order to take a low-wage job with limited opportunities for advancement," said NLU President Nivine Megahed. "Accelerate America is taking the first step in changing that."
Accelerate America was successfully piloted in Louisiana, Rhode Island, and New Jersey in 2020. In Rhode Island, for example, approximately 90 percent of the fellows completed training, and 80 percent attained employment at living-wage jobs in just six months.
SOURCE Propel America