The Rochester Community School District in Michigan (USA) is part of a community rich in tradition, where partnerships between families, schools, and businesses all work together to promote student success through education programs designed so all students can attain the necessary skills and knowledge to become lifelong learners and contribute to a diverse, interdependent, and changing world.

In October 2023, Rochester opened its first Career Exploration Program as part of the Equity in the built environment program, a joint initiative of the City of Rochester and Workforce Development Inc. (WDI) that is opening doors for women of color opportunities in the labour market to ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities, since only 2% of this group are working in construction in Rochester and Olmsted County, where 13% of the total population identifies themselves with the group.

The program supports them in their pursuit of careers within built environment industries and, simultaneously, encourages industry partners to embrace inclusivity in their workforce.

 The program offers three other components:

  • Training opportunities: women can sign up for trades readiness training.
  • Promoting entrepreneurship: women are supported to start their own businesses.
  • Training for built environment companies: companies are encouraged to become Inclusive Workplace Employers (I/WE) by hiring individuals from the program.

This initiative is contributing to the following Sustainable Development targets:

“Students have spent the last three weeks working with local mentors to develop and prepare a pitch for innovative business ideas that address the needs of the community and align with downtown trends.”

According to Julie Brock, project manager, the program will help students gain a better understanding of the building, construction and design sector, and encourage them to consider careers in the built environment. By introducing these opportunities at the high school level, they particularly aim to inspire young women of color to consider career possibilities in these industries. One hundred students in local high schools have already participated in targeted conversations with experts to help students learn about their prospective careers. 

The programe is one of the winners the 2021 Global Mayors Challenge for its innovation to address economic disparities in the labour market.