Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford Vice President of Development Matt Broderick is committed to helping to build a pipeline of opportunities for Hartford youth, especially workforce readiness. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Matt to learn more.
NAN PRICE: Give us a little background about the organization, its mission, and its evolution.
MATT BRODERICK: Our mission is to create caring, productive, and responsible citizens. There are a lot of really talented kids in Hartford. A critical component of the work we do involves giving them access to opportunities.
We’ve recently realigned our programs into six core pillars: Academic Success; Health & Wellness; Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion; science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM); Workforce Development; and Character & Leadership.
A lot of what we’re trying to do at the Clubs is to help kids build foundational skills that are necessary to success in the workforce. That includes helping Club members develop important soft skills like time management, listening skills and communication. Increasingly, we’re also more focused on building technical skills through opportunities like STEAM programming. For example, we have a makerspace that was funded by the Infosys Foundation at our Asylum Hill location. So, we’re exposing kids to 3D printers, laser cutters, design concepts, and coding. Many kids are really good with these skills, they just may not have access to these types of resources at their school.
The next step is to connect them with a broader community through internships and first job experiences and help them learn financial literacy. We want kids to graduate high school on time with a plan for their future. How that looks is going to evolve in terms of workforce. Ultimately, we want the Clubs to be part of the solution that helps build self-sufficient youth and connect them with the right skills and experiential learning.
How do you start to give kids that exposure and let them know these types of jobs are available? That type of exposures is crucial for kids to understand—not only that they have a skillset to do that kind of work, but that there are a lot of our opportunities in the community they live in.
We want to try and keep folks in Hartford. We want kids who grew up here or in the region to stay here and invest in Hartford and help build it. I think it’s essential to retain young employees. They want to see companies doing something good in the community.
NAN: How does the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford involve regional organizations in its mission?
MATT: As we look at ways to start connecting dots in the community, we’re trying to do much more with corporate engagement. A lot of amazing companies and organizations throughout the region are heavily investing in Hartford and its future. We’re seeing more people have a vested interest in Hartford, particularly investing in its future through children.
Internally, we’re trying to be much more intentional about taking a regional approach. Several suburban advisory councils are connected with our Clubs. They provide an opportunity for us to share what we’re doing, get feedback about directions we could be going, and explain to folks in different communities how they can help.
NAN: Tell us more about how the Clubs are creating a workforce pipeline for local youth.
MATT: I think it’s evolving. And of course, it’s been challenging with COVID-19. A lot of times the Clubs will provide kids with their first work experience. Sometimes, we’ll have and 13-16 year-olds become counselors in training for our summer programs. Some of our teenagers will become junior staff who work in the Clubs. Additionally, through Boys & Girls Clubs of America partnerships, we provide youth with summer and year-round jobs at the Gap and Old Navy.
We also connect kids with a broad cross section of corporate internship opportunities. We’ve had summer interns at places like Aetna, The Hartford, and Gengras Motor Cars. The law firm of Robinson+Cole has hosted a Boys & Girls Clubs intern for more than 15 years and one of alumni who interned there now works there.
So, the kids are learning about career possibilities and they’re also learning basic skills including things like time management, dressing in a professional environment, and public speaking. They’re also making meaningful connections. And through our financial literacy programming, our youth are also learning how be responsible with the money they’ve earned, how to budget, and how to save.
Moving forward, we’re also trying to be very intentional about bringing the community into the Clubs with the goal of evolving from a more transactional fundraising approach to more relationship building. We’ve been doing more corporate engagement, trying to connect employee resource groups (ERGs) to our Clubs and program areas, and encouraging more volunteering in the Clubs. Again, it’s been a little challenging with COVID-19, but we have offered virtual engagements, too.
We’d especially love to connect with minority groups, including African American and Hispanic ERGs. We want to start to work more with those groups because there’s a real value for our kids to see people who look like them succeeding. Roughly 95% of our Club members are either Hispanic or African American. Seeing people in their community who look like them in leadership roles is really valuable and hopefully inspires our kids to understand what’s possible for themselves if they take full advantage of the opportunities our Clubs provide.
The Boys & Girls Clubs can really be the pathway to transform kids’ lives. And there are plenty of kids and alumni who’ve done that. Their lives are on a different path because of the opportunities the Clubs provide and the connections they build.