"This is one of the most important times in development in the life of a young person. If we don't pay attention to making this a successful time, we pay for it as a society.These grants at the local level are about the village coming together to make a difference."
Vice President, Community Leadership, The Seattle Foundation
In Fall 2010, SkillUp Washington received $1.8 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to implement a new initiative that will create opportunities for young adults ages 18-25 to improve their basic skills and enroll in credit-bearing college programs. This initiative, called Skill Link, represents an unprecedented effort to align state-level employment and education investors and stakeholders around the pressing need to improve opportunities for low-skilled young adults. In addition to the Gates Foundation, key project partners include the State Board for Community & Technical Colleges, and the State Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board.
In addition to the Gates Foundation grant, SkillUp Washington is currently exploring new relationships with various funders to secure an additional $160,000 to sustain the project. The total projected budget for Skill Link is about $1.9 million.
How it works
Skill Link is a new on ramp initiative that will create opportunities for 200-250 young adults ages 18-25. Participants will improve their work readiness and education skills and enroll in credit-bearing college programs through partnerships between community colleges, workforce investment boards, and community-based organizations in six pilot sites around Washington state. The six Skill Link sites will recruit ten cohorts of 20-25 young adults whose basic skills are too low to qualify them for community college Integrated Basic Educational Skills Training (I-BEST) programs, but who are motivated to succeed. Four sites have already been chosen to begin implementation in Summer 2011. Programming is scheduled to begin during Fall Quarter of 2011. The other two sites will be selected in 2012.
The program will put in place on-ramps to I-BEST and career pathways as well as community pipelines and infrastructure needed to support the successful engagement of these young people. It will also implement incentive-driven, navigation, and support service strategies to promote student persistence.
Each Skill Link site consists of a local community college, a workforce investment board, and at least one non-profit CBO. The four Skill Link sites are composed of the following partners:
Lower Columbia Valley
Lower Columbia College
Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council
Lower Columbia Community Action Program
Educational Service District 112 – Youth Workforce Program
Work Opportunity Center at Goodwill Longview
Over 80 students have been enrolled during the first year. Skillup is looking to launch two new sites at Green River Community College and Clover Park Technical College (Tacoma). We are in the process of finalizing who the partners will be at those sites. The new cohorts will likely launch fall quarter of 2012.
Skill Link Planning Meetings
The sites have met several times to discuss the project and establish common goals and objectives. The most recent meeting was in late May at Renton Technical College.
(King County Group, Highline and Renton)
(Walla Walla Group. Kathy Cooper, SBCTC, pictured left)
(Lower Columbia Group. Eleni Papadakis, WTECB, pictured in white shirt)
Program Coordinator: Chris Pierson, (206) 388-1653