Urban Scholars program trains a diverse group of students in public service careers

Minneapolis’ first Urban Scholars have been working this summer in eight different City departments, developing leadership skills and learning about careers in government. The Urban Scholars Program, which is a new program proposed in Mayor R.T. Rybak’s 2012 budget and approved by the City Council, aims to help young people from diverse backgrounds build their skills for the future, with a focus on careers in public service.

Urban Scholars is one component of the One Minneapolis Equity in Employment initiative, which aims to close the employment gap in a city and metro area that suffers from one of the highest disparities between white and non-white unemployment in the country. While the City’s overall unemployment rate is 5.3 percent, the lowest since the start of the recession, unemployment among African Americans in Minneapolis is at 20 percent, and the unemployment rate for American Indians is 25 percent.

This year’s eight Urban Scholars were chosen from among more than 100 applicants. The students selected are working in key areas of City government, and in the long run, the City hopes to develop a group of young talent who can begin careers in public service, and someday be the next generation of City leaders. The eight scholars are all Minneapolis residents, attending colleges across the country.

The One Minneapolis Equity in Employment initiative also attacks the employment gap through the RENEW program, which takes job seekers from the hardest-hit neighborhoods of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, prepares them for green careers and connects them with employers who are hiring. Of the 586 people who have gone through RENEW training so far, 52 percent are African American, and 315 have secured living-wage jobs related to their training.

The City has also increased its number of STEP-UP interns at the City this year. Since that program for high school interns began, 86 percent of interns have been people of color. The Urban Scholars program is a next step for STEP-UP interns going on to college.

Published Aug. 13, 2012