By Gail Rosenblum
Since 2003, Step Up has created more than 29,000 internship experiences for Minneapolis young people ages 14 to 21, offering job skills training and career opportunities to ready them for a diverse 21st century workforce. Not even a worldwide pandemic could halt this respected program, a partnership of the city of Minneapolis, AchieveMpls, CareerForce Minneapolis and Project for Pride in Living. Along with traditional paid internships in 2020, Step Up pivoted to paid virtual internships and career exploration opportunities, and virtual work readiness training. Heidi Sundquist, who has developed Step Up internships with her employer, Accenture, shares more about this summer's ambitious goals.
Q: When a lot of programs took a yearlong break, Step Up and Accenture jumped in to keep young people working. What were keys to your success?
A: Step Up was among the few programs in the country last summer that offered career opportunities for young people during COVID-19. While fewer internships were available, 466 Minneapolis youth still had paid internships with 62 employers. Shifting to online options was crucial. More than 1,000 Minneapolis youth participated in the Step Up paid online career exploration program in 2020.
Q: Accenture was poised to help in that regard. Can you say more about that?
A: Accenture had something to offer the young job seekers since all of our people and systems were already enabled for remote work. That allowed us to host Step Up interns from other companies that weren't able to accommodate a virtual intern. We developed Learning To Lead (L2L), a virtual, six-week summer internship program created to maintain and expand our intern commitment to our nonprofit partners. L2L offered Step Up's young people an opportunity to build skills they would have developed in a traditional internship, with topics including storytelling and public speaking, marketing, emerging technologies, data visualization, and personal and business finance. The program culminated in a final online project to showcase their new skills. We'll be offering it again virtually this summer.
Q: How many internships does Step Up hope to provide this summer?