MTW has developed an innovative approach for youth development and job training for the most marginalized youth and is shifting perceptions about their potential.
Through MTW, youth learn to be responsible for the entire operation of their own online and retail bookselling business and café. The model is youth-driven, starting with the application process. Experienced members of the MTW youth team interview all applicants, who are referred by their social worker, probation officer, or school counselor. Once accepted, youth have two jobs—their BUSINESS job and their YOUjob—both of which are built upon MTW’s guiding principles.
MTW youth work as part of a team managing their bookstore 20–30 hours per week and are integrated into all aspects of the business. Youth facilitate peer-led trainings and weekly team meetings, track and forecast the financials for the business, manage sales—both online and in the store and café—guide tours, plan and host monthly open-mic events and community workshops, and manage marketing and promotions. Youth continually expand their interpersonal and customer service skills through interactions with customers in the store and cafe. Through the BUSINESS job, youth learn marketable and transferable job skills, including public speaking, technology use, and inventory management, as well as critical professional skills such as showing up on time and working as a team.
Youth have a second equally important job called the “YOU” job. Through deliberate personal transition planning and case management, MTW ensures that all our youth have the life essentials in place to move on to meaningful jobs and college. The YOU job helps many MTW youth achieve basic personal milestones such as obtaining an ID, opening a bank account, and finding housing. Youth also gain exposure to potential jobs and colleges through regular site visits and shadow days with community partners including hotels, banks, and universities. By tackling personal barriers in their lives and gaining exposure to new opportunities, youth are able to craft their own action plans with concrete steps for pursuing education and future employment.
On average, youth work at their BUSINESS job and YOU job for 6–12 months, crafting an intentional plan for their future. Upon transitioning from the store-based services, MTW provides community-based case management and support services for youth for at least a full year to ensure their success in achieving self-efficacy as they move on to another job or to college.
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