The philanthropic arm of telecommunications giant AT&T and Junior Achievement last week launched a job-shadowing project as part of a broader effort to cut dropout rates and introduce high schoolers to the world of work.
Through the five-year, $5.5 million initiative, the Dallas-based AT&T Foundation aims to have 100,000 students nationwide briefly shadow more than 50,000 AT&T employees to help give students an incentive to graduate and a sense for what work is like.
Susan McCain, an AT&T spokeswoman, said students are spending two to three hours of a school day shadowing AT&T employees in such departments as marketing, advertising, and customer service. The job-shadowing project is part of the $100 million AT&T Aspire initiative, which is slated to run from this year through 2011.
“We’ve supported education in local schools for years and years,” Ms. McCain said, “but this is a little more concentrated effort on high school retention and career development.” She added that more than 60 job-shadowing events have been planned for this year alone.
With high school dropout rates that are increasingly seen as unacceptable, the effort is designed to help students see “that there’s value to staying in school,” said Stephanie Bell, a spokeswoman for Colorado Springs, Colo.-based JA Worldwide, which runs the nonprofit Junior Achievement network of programs in entrepreneurship, work readiness, and financial literacy.
“They don’t see a connection between their school lessons and their lives after graduation, and job shadowing really helps them make that connection,” Ms. Bell said.
As part of the AT&T Aspire program, the AT&T Foundation will also make grants to schools and nonprofit organizations that are focused on helping students graduate from high school and become better prepared for college and the workforce. It will also underwrite research on what works in addressing the dropout problem, and support 100 state and community dropout-prevention summits for education experts and community leaders organized by Washington-based America’s Promise Alliance.
A version of this article appeared in the October 15, 2008 edition of Education Week