The Inside Edge That Matters

“Getting an inside edge by using help from family and friends is a powerful, hidden force driving inequality in the United States.” Does this affect employment in certain racial groups?

According to Nancy DiTomaso, it does. A researcher at Rutgers University, Ms. DiTomaso authored a recent NYTimes article entitled, How Social Networks Drive Black Unemployment (5/6/13) , Why this is true, according to Ms. DiTomaso, is because the help we receive from family and friends, through our social networks has a strong racial component.

While the article is lean on data to support its claim, a certain truth that caught my attention: our city’s corporate culture is less diverse than our public schools. For many underserved students of color, the landscape of Boston’s downtown skyline is a wilderness. Students don’t know what happens inside the city’s notable buildings, such as 60 State Street, the Hancock Tower, the Federal Reserve Building, or the financial institutions on Federal Street. These office buildings and many more like them are unexplored regions.

What’s missing is the social capital–the connections to adults that help families introduce their children to wider career opportunities. Apprentice Learning hopes to close that gap by helping students venture into these places just as they might venture out into the wilderness on an Outward Bound expedition.

Ultimately, our goal is that the  students’ view of Boston’s skyline be marked with familiarity. All students should dream about their place in vibrant cultures of commerce, medicine, law, biotechnology, innovation, and technology. Especially when these opportunities are within walking distance from their homes.

Apprenticeships give students the chance to work alongside of professionals who can show them the ropes, share their personal stories and come to know students as individuals with the potential to contribute. In turn, Apprentices have an experience that reshapes an unfamiliar environment into one where they can imagine themselves. Experiences like these contribute and strengthen a young person’s social network, academic motivation and ultimately, develop into the type of support so important to landing a highly competitive job.

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