Workforce Spotlight

Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania Prepares Teens for Jobs of the Future

September 23, 2020

For the past 130 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania has built a rich legacy of being one of the most comprehensive youth services providers in both Allegheny and Somerset counties by living out our mission to activate and advance the potential in every child by doing whatever it takes to ensure they have GREAT FUTURES.


Currently, BGCWPA serves over 15,000 youth annually in Western Pennsylvania from ages 3-18, including 2,000 teens served directly at our Clubhouses and another 3,500 teens served through our services and outreach. We have 15 program sites across Allegheny and Somerset counties, including a stand-alone youth workforce development center with expansion programs that is set to add new locations this year. Seventy percent of the youth we serve qualify for free and reduced lunch across all locations, and in four locations nearly 100 percent of the children we serve live at or below the poverty line. Our multitude of programs and services support the whole child through both the traditional Boys & Girls Clubs programs we are known for - such as mentoring through after-school recreation and sports; and through newer career development, academic support, STEM and mental health and wellness programs.


After over a decade of offering informal career development programming, two years ago BGCWPA launched new teen programming, including the Healthy Lifestyles program to promote social emotional wellness and Career Works youth workforce development programs, including the Artificial Intelligence Pathways Institute, which exposes youth to careers in STEM through project-based learning, professional mentorship and work-based learning experiences. Our focus on delivering programming that develops teens through all aspects of their lives is intended to increase youth and young adult life skills and power skills a.k.a. “soft skills,” to provide a solid ground on which to build career awareness, readiness and accessibility. Youth in BGCWPA Teen and Career programs are ultimately offered the opportunity to enter our job training pathways in the Career Works Tech track which includes summer internships and industry partner based apprenticeships to provide local employers with reliable and outstanding job applicants while giving our participants a secure career pathway.


The Career Works program has five tracks, four of which we are currently running:


  1. Career Works High – A program for high school students ages 14-16 that is focused on soft skill development, academic support and remediation in core areas like math, career exploration and mentoring, field based learning, summer employment experiences and building self-identity and confidence.
  2. Artificial Intelligence Pathways Institute - A pioneering program, the first of its kind in the nation, that is focused on exposing teens to AI/Robotics careers in a summer intensive, school-year hardware and software accelerator where the teens are given office space, earn a wage of $10 an hour and connect to pre-apprentice programming to become a robotics technician through our partnership with NVIDIA, PPG and Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy. 
  3. Great Start, Level Up - Adjudicated youth learn about healthy lifestyles, work in our Clubhouses with a mentor, receive one-on-one coaching and gain access to credit recovery in the summer.
  4. Career Works Tech - A newly launched program that provides occupational skill training, internships, apprenticeship and advanced academic support and career placement services. We currently have five teens participating in pre-apprentice programming in STEM, and 40 in Artificial Intelligence. We look forward to the start of our third track in Transportation & Logistics, as well as additional tracks being launched in 2021.


In the first 18 months of our Career Works Program we had the following outcomes:


  1. 280 teens in our summer employment program, Career Works High and AIPI tracks; 100 teens in Great Start.
  2. 2,450 hours of training for Career Works High and 470 Hours for AIPI;  and180 for the virtual summer youth employment program
  3. 150+ LIVE training sessions online and 130+ Asynchronous virtual training sessions.
  4. Developed partnerships with nine school districts, including Pittsburgh Public Schools, McKeesport, Clairton, Northgate, North Hills, Shaler, Woodland Hills, Somerset and Sto-Rox.
  5. First 21st Century Community Learning Center in Pennsylvania focused on Career Readiness; asked to present to Superintendents and IUs from across the Commonwealth by Carmen Medina, Chief at PDE.


In addition to outcomes from our career development programs, our after-school excellence program served over 3,000 youth with 100 percent of participants improving their standardized test scores. 100 percent of youth demonstrated improved math grades. BGCWPA is proud to offer academic support and STEM enrichment programming at all of our sites for youth ages 3-18. Our STEM focus supports a growing need for STEM education and engagement - the Pew Research Center has stated that STEM employment has increased 79 percent, with computer-specific jobs increasing 338 percent since 1990.


As a member of the Remake Learning Network, we know that youth need engaging and accessible lessons in STEM to motivate them to take the steps necessary to help fill these career openings. BGCWPA staff prioritizes hands-on, real-world learning in STEM areas including coding, robotics, artificial intelligence and maker space projects. Finally, BGCWPA’s mission is inherently inclusive, ensuring that the future of the workforce is diverse and representative of the communities where they live and work. BGCWPA is committed to providing accessible pathways to these high demand careers so that all youth have the opportunity to earn a life sustaining wage and build a career with purpose and passion.


Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania is proud to continue to expand our program offerings to deliver high quality training and numerous diverse opportunities to our youth. We are excited to open a second Career Works workforce development site in the City of Pittsburgh, and to form more industry partnerships to provide opportunities to out of school youth ages 16-24. If you are a business or professional looking for opportunities to connect with young job applicants, join us! We welcome volunteers, programmatic and curriculum support, and EITC program support.


With the help of partners like you, we were able to serve 240 youth in career development programming in the 2019-2020 program year. With your support, we will be able to more than double our impact in the coming year! Get on board TODAY and join the movement! Our approved industry partners are filling high demand roles with quality candidates, providing opportunities for traditionally untapped youth and increasing their bottom line! Contact us to find out more!


Please contact Emily Donato, Manager of Career Development Programs, at