Photo of student holding tote bags and an iPad.

As a senior at North-Grand High School, Lanya Scott leaves campus after fifth period three days per week and heads to work. She signs in at the pharmacy at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and begins her five-hour shift, where she serves as a pharmacy tech assistant youth apprentice.

Though Lanya is making $18 per hour and gaining relevant real-world experience, the opportunity isn’t a traditional job. As her title suggests, Lanya is a youth apprentice, an opportunity made possible through City Colleges of Chicago’s Career Launch Chicago program.

Over the last several years, youth apprenticeship programs like Career Launch Chicago, which provide opportunities for young people between the ages of 16 and 24, have garnered attention as an effective way to introduce students to in-demand careers and allow them to gain tangible skills.

This year, the U.S. Department of Labor is recognizing its first-ever Youth Apprenticeship Week from May 5 to 11 to highlight the benefits and value of youth apprenticeships for students and employers alike. City Colleges’ Career Launch Chicago program, a partnership with Chicago Public Schools through the Chicago Roadmap, has proven its value for two consecutive years. This spring, Lanya and the second cohort of students participating in youth apprenticeships are wrapping up their programs with Chicago employers.

“Since I was a little girl, I’ve always been interested in the medical field, but the pharmacy environment is new to me,” Lanya said. “This apprenticeship program is teaching me so many skills and giving me exposure to a new career field.”

As a pharmacy tech assistant youth apprentice, Lanya shadows the pharmacy technician’s staffing and learns about the medications that patients have been ordered. She assists the technicians in their day-to-day duties, not only learning about the medication, but also building her customer service skills by learning to interact with other interdisciplinary groups at the institution.

“Youth today want to work,” Lanya said. “We’re so driven, but we don’t have connections yet, so we don’t know where to find work.”

Career Launch Chicago is helping students do just that—get to work. The program pairs selected students with paid youth apprenticeship positions at notable employers across the city. Beyond gaining valuable work experience and exploring in-demand career paths, the students get paid for the hours they work. And for those like Lanya that are still in high school, they earn CPS credit for their participation as they travel from their school campuses to their job sites after class.

Lanya feels like she’s made a true difference at Northwestern Medicine—and her supervisors agree.

“By fostering connections and providing real-world exposure, our hands-on apprentice program not only benefits the Chicago Public Schools students but can also contribute to employee retention within healthcare organizations,” said Desiree White and Jennifer Diaz, pharmacy technician practice coordinators at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “Lanya’s dedication and positive contributions exemplify the program’s success. Our goal is to provide students with an inside look into the medical profession, helping students discern whether a career in medicine aligns with their interests, values, and goals.”

Like more traditional apprenticeship programs, the opportunity has the potential to increase employee retention, as students like Lanya build lasting connections and a strong desire to continue to work at their organizations.

To learn more and express your interest in becoming an employer partner with Career Launch Chicago, click here.