Career Readiness and Success

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Career Readiness and Success programs at Youth Guidance empower youth from underresourced communities to develop the key life skills they need to connect to meaningful opportunities aligned with their interests and passion.

Career Readiness and Success offers a layered approach of individual services, group support, and resource sharing via agency partnerships to connect diverse, qualified youth candidates to quality career and postsecondary opportunities.

Career Readiness and Success

Youth Guidance’s vision is that all young people in Chicago know their value, can envision themselves in a career, and can step into the workforce with confidence and a plan of action to succeed. We believe that creating a more diverse and capable workforce through innovative youth-centered services will lead to lower unemployment, connected communities, and a stronger economy.

Our Workforce Development Programs Offer

  • Career Counseling
  • Job Readiness Skills Training
  • Employment and Postsecondary Connections
  • Case Management

Over the past two years, Youth Guidance’s Career Readiness and Success  (formerly Youth Workforce Development) programs have served 428 youth and facilitated placements for 306 youth into workforce opportunities.

0 Youth Served
0 Workforce Placements


With @Work, youth participate in group lessons at school, just like their BAM® and WOW circles, and attend special events with corporate partners to practice their skills, network, and get connected to jobs and internships.

Project Prepare

For more than 25 years Project Prepare has helped high school students explore career options and develop skills for successful post-secondary transition.

Project Prepare Blue

Project Prepare Blue builds upon our proven in-school programming to serve out-of-school and unemployed youth.

Post-Secondary and Workforce Opportunities

Youth Guidance continues to deepen and expand its partnerships to increase youth access and connections to college, employment, and career programs.


@Work is a specially designed year-long program for students who have successfully progressed through the BAM and WOW programs. The curriculum builds off of the BAM and WOW  core values to empower participants to build and deepen relationships that impact their post-secondary success.

Throughout the year, youth attend events with corporate partners to practice these skills and network. Youth participate in additional workshops and receive individual support from an @Work Specialist who connects them with job opportunities and internships.

In weekly circles, youth learn to:

  • reflect

    on their personal strengths

  • envision

    brighter future

  • adapt

    their plan of action

  • advocate

    for new opportunities

0 Students
In the 2019-2020 school year, 160 students from 9 schools will participate in the @Work program

In 2017-2018, 67 CPS students and 15 postgraduates participated in Project Prepare.

0 CPS Students
0 Post-Graduates

All maintained their enrollment in school, while the average dropout rate for students in the same CPS schools was 6.5%. Research further revealed that 93% of participants graduated from high school on time.

Project Prepare

For more than 30 years, Project Prepare has helped young people focus on the development of current and future career interests.

The program pairs 11th and 12th graders at three area high schools with career specialists who guide them through career exploration and coach them on developing ten core job readiness skills.

Career Specialists cater the training to meet the individual needs of each participant. Youth also participate in special events such as job shadowing, employer visits, and job readiness boot camps.

Project Prepare helps students develop hard and soft life skills focused on college and career readiness. Most participants are between the ages of 15-19. Students enter the program through referral and meet with highly skilled Career Specialists on a bi-weekly basis. During the 2014-2015 school year, Project Prepare successfully placed students into 96 job opportunities.

Safeguarding graduation is a primary focus for program staff.

Our Project Prepare program is supported by grants provided by the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership.

Our agency is an equal opportunity employer/program. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.

Loop Discovery Search

Since 1989, Youth Guidance has also included the Loop Discovery Search as a part of Project Prepare. The activity has educated more than 1,200 inner-city youth on the Chicago “Loop” business district. Student teams are sent on a clue-by-clue search throughout the downtown area to collect information from landmarks, maps, building directories, street signs, and library shelves.

The project helps develop important workforce skills including teamwork, critical thinking, time management, decision making, conflict management, and navigation.

Project Prepare Blue

In January 2016, Youth Guidance launched Project Prepare Blue, a workforce development program that builds upon its proven in-school programming to serve out-of-school and underemployed youth.

Individual and group-based career exploration, job readiness training and other supports take place in a community-based setting. Staff facilitates placement into employment, advanced training and/or college that will lead to work and education retention, skills gains, credential attainment, and increased earnings.

Youth participate in an intensive two-week professional development training then receive up to one year of coaching from their Career Specialist to execute their individual employment plan.


In July 2017, Project Prepare Blue expanded its partnership with Sprint to expose and connect youth to career pathways within Sprint through job shadowing, corporate office visits, and coaching from employees.

As of August 2019, 78% of youth had been successfully placed with an employer or with an educational institution.

Post-Secondary and Workforce Opportunities

Youth Guidance provides placement and retention support to participants for a variety of college and career opportunities curated by staff to meet the interests and qualifications of participants.

These opportunities include paid internships, jobs, and enrollment into college access and advanced career training programs such as Genesys Works, Year Up, Chicago Scholars, and One Million Degrees.

Youth Guidance is grateful for the support of our diverse employer network including: At Your Service, Chicago Park District, Ford Motor Company, Hilco Global, Hyatt, Mariano’s, Sprint, State Farm Insurance, Target, TJX Companies, Uber, and University of Chicago Medicine.

Career Exploration Events

Career exploration events utilize corporate volunteers who meet with youth and provide them with individualized guidance on networking skills, career pathways, and interviewing. These events allow volunteers to interact and get to know youth on a personal level.

During FY19, 350 professional volunteers worked with 475 Youth Guidance students during 16 events. Corporate hosts included Uber, United Airlines, Sprint, and Exelon. Following the events, 77% of students surveyed felt more confident pursing job opportunities after engaging with volunteers and 84% of students felt that preparing and practicing interviewing was very helpful.