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Oakland’s Future at Work: Leveling the Professional Playing Field with Career Bridges

It’s a common saying in business, "It's not what you know but who you know." This highlights a significant hurdle as research shows that up to 85% of jobs are filled through networking *.

This underscores the challenges faced by many of our youth from historically disenfranchised communities in Oakland, where a history of systemic racism and historical redlining has severely limited access to these crucial networks. The legacy of redlining not only defined residential boundaries but also impacted our community's professional landscape, making some career opportunities nearly inaccessible for those without strong connections.

Are we truly offering equal career opportunities to all our youth in Oakland? At Catalyst Youth Network, our Career Bridge program is dedicated to proactively dismantling the barriers reinforced by these historical injustices. Our goal is clear: pave the way for meaningful employment and ensure that every young individual in our community has a fair and equitable chance to succeed.

Acknowledging these barriers is our starting point. Tackling them might seem daunting, but there are practical steps we can take. At Catalyst, we focus on three core strategies: building inclusive professional networks that reflect our community's diversity, offering paid internships to provide valuable real-world experience, and providing coaching through volunteer Career Coaches to nurture every young person's potential.

These strategies are supported through our programs and the contributions of volunteers, such as Career Coaches, who use their professional experience to guide youth through the barriers that have historically impeded their progress.

By providing paid internships, we ensure that these opportunities are not only accessible but also equitable. This approach allows students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, who might otherwise be unable to accept unpaid work due to financial constraints, to participate and benefit from the same professional development opportunities as their peers.

As we continue to challenge the status quo, we at Catalyst Youth Network remains steadfast in our commitment to cultivating a landscape where every young person in Oakland has access to the opportunities they deserve. Through Programs like Career Bridge, we are not only confronting historical injustices but also paving the way for future generations. Join us in this mission to transform barriers into bridges, ensuring a more equitable and prosperous future for all our community's youth.

Together, we can extend Bridges of Opportunity, paving the way for our youth to reach their fullest potential.

Written by Robert Rickett, Founder & Executive Director of Catalyst Youth Network.

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