Governor's new YouthWorks initiative creates internships and work experience for thousands of students

Story Body

Inslee joins students, businesses and partners to announce $1.9 million in funding

SPOKANE – Gov. Jay Inslee joined students at Spokane’s North Central High School (NCHS) today to spotlight a successful youth career readiness project that includes internships in biomedical and other sciences. The governor announced the winners of a new round of federal grant funding that will provide education opportunities to help thousands of young people across Washington prepare for meaningful, living-wage careers.

The YouthWorks grants, totaling more than $1.9 million, will provide internships and other work-based learning experiences for thousands of students across the state and help re-engage those who have dropped out or are at-risk of not graduating from high school.

“YouthWorks is all about using local connections between experts, businesses, educators and students to launch our young adults onto a path towards career success,” Inslee said to a class of freshmen students at the NCHS Institute of Science and Technology. “Every one of you should have the opportunity to fulfill your vision for your future.”

YouthWorks started as a pilot program funded by the Employment Security Department (ESD) and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) in Fall 2013. Employment Security contributed $100,000 and OSPI contributed $150,000 to support the five pilot projects, including a partnership between Spokane Public Schools and the Spokane Area Workforce Development Council.

“We leveraged the local employment resources with the reach OSPI has in school districts,” said Ken Kanikeberg, OSPI Chief of Staff. “The results have been very encouraging. An additional 2,500 students were matched with a specific career goal last year. And many of these students are the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the state. Some had dropped out, or were in danger of dropping out. When we had the opportunity to take this plan statewide, we jumped at it.”

“This grant has helped to evolve the career and college readiness opportunities created for our students by connecting their High School and Beyond Plan to mentorships, internships or other work-based learning activities at local businesses and post-secondary institutes,” said Dr. Shelley Redinger, Superintendent, Spokane Public Schools. “Through this partnership, teachers and students have been and will continue to be offered various opportunities outside of the classroom, helping students get to and through a technical, 2-year or 4-year post-secondary program while increasing our Spokane area workforce and economy," she said.

Spokane Public Schools Career & Technical Education department helps students learn early on the types of courses they need to choose for their particular career interest and provides opportunities for students to network and learn from professionals in the local and regional STEM economy.

“This investment in Spokane’s workforce system has provided us with expanded capacity to further connect school-based learning experiences to the world of work,” said Kyle West, Business & Development Manager for the Spokane Area Workforce Development Council. “Students that have benefitted from this project have discovered firsthand real world applications of what they learn in the classroom, deepened their awareness of multiple career pathways, and accelerated their preparedness to join our workforce through substantive engagement with local businesses from growing industries.”

As part of the pilot project, the STEM Navigator worked with those students and teachers conducting Genomic research at the NCHS Institute of Science and Technology, Project Lead the Way scholars studying engineering and biomedical applications at Rogers High School, and members of FIRST Robotics and CyberPatriot teams at each high school.

Hannah Sylvester, biomedical sciences and career choices student at NCHS, and Hannah Winters, Analytical Quality Control Scientist at Jubilant HollisterStier LLC, joined the governor to share their experiences with the project.

YouthWorks background

The YouthWorks pilot projects matched students with mentorships, internships and other work-based learning activities at local businesses in five Washington communities: Renton, Spokane, Vancouver, Wenatchee and Yelm. Teachers in these communities also participated in business externships to learn how the subjects they teach are applied in real-life work settings then incorporated that experience into their curricula.

Local Workforce Development Councils (WDC) and school districts worked together to implement the program, recruit and organize employer involvement, and coordinate student participation.

By June of 2014, the participating schools had doubled the number of students with employer mentors and graduations coaches, doubled the number of internships, and tripled the number of students with other work-based learning experiences.

Based on this success, the Governor’s office, the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board (WTECB), OSPI, WDCs, and ESD identified $1.9 million in federal funding to reach more students, businesses, and schools across the state.

This second round of funding will:

  • Expand collaboration between school districts, WDCs, and dropout re-engagement programs to reach primarily low-income and at-risk students as well as youths who have dropped out of school;
  • Create 1,047 on-site business internships for students;
  • Match 1,144 students with business mentors and graduation coaches;
  • Provide 1,610 students with other work-based learning experiences; and
  • Help 1,800 students identify a career goal and develop pathway through high school and post-secondary education to achieve their goal—a 120 percent increase over baseline.


REPORTERS: To learn more about how the initiative works in your area, please contact the local coordinators listed below.

Olympic Workforce Development Council (Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap counties) ~ $78,193.
Media contact: Bob Potter, director, 360-337-4873

Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council (Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific and Thurston counties) ~ $137,496.
Media contact: Cheryl Fambles, chief executive officer, 360-704-3568

Northwest Workforce Council (Island, San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties) ~ $119,286.
Media contact: Gay Dubigk, director, 360-676-3206

Snohomish County Workforce Development Council ~ $165,840.
Media contact: Erin Monroe, chief executive officer, 425-921-3423

Workforce Development Council of Seattle/King County ~ $464,872.
Media contact: Marlena Sessions, chief executive officer, 206-448-0474

Tacoma-Pierce County Workforce Development Council ~ $224,803.
Media contact: Linda Nguyen, chief executive officer, 253-472-8094

Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council (Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties) ~ $210,230.
Media contact: Jeanne Bennett, executive director, 360-567-1070

North-Central Washington Workforce Development Council (Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties) ~ $101,934.
Media contact: Dave Petersen, director, 509-663-3091, ext. 228

South-Central Washington Workforce Development Council (Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania and Yakima counties) ~ $136,930.
Media contact: Patrick Baldoz, director, 509-574-1950

Eastern Washington Partnership Workforce Development Council (Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla counties) ~ $73,016.
Media contact: Tom O’Brien, director, 509-685-6129

Benton-Franklin Workforce Development Council (Benton and Franklin counties) ~ $50,279.
Media contact: Cos Edwards, executive director, 509-734-5984

Spokane-Area Workforce Development Council ~ $142,640.
Media contact: Mark Mattke, chief executive officer, 509-533-8470

Media Contacts

Office of the Governor
Jaime Smith