A Leg Up: EmployBR teams up with businesses to give underserved youths a path forward

It’s a very real problem. About 35 percent of East Baton Rouge youths ages 18 to 24 are living in poverty, with few prospects for employment or a viable future.

EmployBR hopes to change all of that with the help of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Through the federally funded Youth Program component of WIOA, the organization is bringing together the core programs of skill development, training and employment to benefit the parish’s underserved youth.

That’s particularly meaningful for Amanda Stanley, a former educator and WIOA chief administrator. Her office assists some 500 underserved youth across the parish, focusing primarily on their Work Experience Program (WEP). In the process, EmployBR assists participants in finding employment in a field that matches their interest, then pays 100 percent of an eligible participant’s salary for up to a year, unless they exit the program early or the employer opts out before the year has ended.

“We’re pairing the employer with a private employee, but they’re essentially an employee of Baton Rouge,” Stanley says. “It’s about getting people into jobs and helping employers keep them there. That can continue as long as the youth is eligible.”


WIOA’s main three goals are to strengthen and improve the nation’s public workforce system, help remove barriers to employment in high-quality and high-demand jobs and careers, and help employers hire and retain skilled workers. In the process, WEP business partners provide detailed training to participants to better equip them with the discipline and tools needed to secure sustainable employment.

The Youth Incentive Program has been a part of WIOA since the beginning. “The
main goal is to assist those youth who face significant barriers with resources and support to transition into self-sufficient adults,” Stanley says. “We want to help them transition into the workforce, gain the skills necessary to become self-sufficient, provide them with educational support, etc.”

Stanley’s office also provides assistance and training to help acclimate participants to a business setting while also strengthening and building transferrable skills needed for a successful career path.

Getting the word out about the program to both potential participants and employers has been a bit of challenge, but EmployBR has made some recent headway. “We’ve partnered with the Mayor’s Youth Workforce Experience initiative, and have made a lot of connections there,” Stanley says. “It’s a great venue for getting the word out.”

For their part, business partners provide detailed training to participants in order to better equip them with the tools they’ll need to secure sustainable employment. “Many employers in our system have a desire to shape the future workforce, and this is a way to do that,” Stanley says. “Along the way, my office will provide assistance with any transportation issues etc., as well as provide case management to ensure they’re successful.”