BOA Technology (BOA) has been partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado (BBBSC) for five years; what started with donations and several employees volunteering as Bigs grew into a partnership that aims to create sustained change and impact. The Career Possibilities Program brings four BBBSC Littles into BOA for an eight-week paid internship during which the students experience multiple parts of the business while simultaneously gaining mentorship from BOA employees.
As part of this program, BOA’s hope is to expand diversity within the Outdoor Industry and STEM fields, explained Elissa Banker, Director of Community Development & Partnerships. Rather than drawing talent away from other industries, “we want to add to and develop talent pipelines by helping kids realize what’s possible well in advance of post-secondary education.”
In addition to building students’ knowledge of the industry, the Career Possibilities Program helps marginalized youth build social capital, a network and a vision for their future. This mentoring complements what’s provided within the structure of BBBSC, meaning students get even more support in their social emotional learning. “This program has been successful because it is a true partnership,” said Banker. “We lean on each other to be experts in our fields, and we share the common goal of helping Colorado youth achieve their full potential.”
Employees at BOA share this clear vision of BOA’s community impact goals and a sense of connection to BOA’s commitment to community. “Employee engagement has been high,” explained Banker. “Teams are always asking when we can work with students again.” One advantage of this model is that employees can volunteer their time during the workday rather than having to find time to engage on the weekends.
Time is a valuable resource when it comes to nonprofit partnerships but as Banker shared, it’s important to take time at the start for thoughtful conversations to find a partnership that speaks to the impact goals of both organizations, as well as the interests of employees. Taking a long-term vision supports the growth of a partnership, which is crucial because “change doesn’t happen overnight.”
BOA hopes to reach more students through an evolution of this program, launching in the fall. The goal of exposing kids to careers that may not have been in their line of sight will stay the same, with the hope that other companies can adopt a similar model.