In our ongoing series highlighting Verizon’s hyper-local approach to corporate social responsibility and community-based partnerships that make this work possible – today, we turn our focus to St. Louis, where the city’s challenges are met with locally tailored solutions.
The rate of youth disconnection in St. Louis, young people (ages 16-24) who are not enrolled in school or training programs nor working, is a critical issue facing the city. Nearly 11% of youth in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area are considered disconnected, according to research from the Social Science Research Council. Moreover, Black youth in the city are 67% more likely than their white counterparts to be impacted by this issue. While the contributing factors can vary, disconnection is often associated with other overlapping disparities such as educational or housing inequities.
Dream Builders 4 Equity (DB4E), our partner in St. Louis, is working to address this issue. Founded in 2016, DB4E takes an innovative approach to workforce development, educating youth in construction, financial literacy, and property investment while enabling them to reinvest these skills in their communities. Young people who participate in the program apply their newfound skills on construction projects within the city. The organization is on track to refurbish 50 properties in the Hyde Park area of northern St. Louis by 2050, with a broader mission “to develop economically sustainable and socially engaged communities” by advancing equity for youth, businesses, residents, and real estate.
During summer 2023, Verizon partnered with DB4E Summer Youth Academy and DB4E’s long-term telecom construction business partner, ADB Companies, to launch a workforce development program that introduces youth to regional jobs in telecom construction . Dozens of young people attended day trips at an ADB facility to observe telecom professionals in the field. They also participated in mentorship and shadowing opportunities to broaden their understanding of the industry’s diverse roles.
Programs like Summer Youth Academy are timely given the federal government’s plans to provide Missouri with more than $1.7 billion for broadband development through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This historic investment amplifies the need for trained professionals to build networks that will connect all Missourians, making the Summer Youth Academy program even more essential.
“The partnership between Verizon and ADB has been invaluable,” said Michael Woods, President & CEO of DB4E. “The opportunity to see high-paying career opportunities and learn from committed professionals is essential to youth being successful in the future.”
Laying the groundwork for a successful STEM workforce pipeline begins with early education. That’s why, for more than 10 years, Verizon has invested in our Verizon Innovative Learning Lab program, exposing middle and high school students to emerging technologies via a hands-on, project-based curriculum. The program recently expanded to include four schools in St. Louis Public Schools. Verizon continues to support the pipeline of new tech talent through TechLAUNCH, a new program with the nonprofit TechSTL that aims to train 10,000 underserved residents in critical tech skills for jobs of the future.
“Together with local partners like Dream Builders 4 Equity, Verizon is committed to leveraging our resources to co-create initiatives tailored to community needs,” said Mackenzie Alberti, Verizon’s local representative. “In St. Louis, expanding career development opportunities for youth is a critical step towards shaping a more diverse and engaged workforce. We’re focused on bolstering STEM inclusivity to help cultivate the next generation of tech and telecom leaders.”
US Tech Future is a Verizon-led community-focused initiative working to engage local communities in a discussion about technology and how it can improve the lives of local residents for their benefit and the benefit of the community as a whole.