CHICAGO (PR Newswire) — PepsiCo announced the launch of its new initiative, Pathways to Readiness and Empowerment Program (PREP) by PepsiCo Stronger Together, a more than $5 million dollar investment that aims to put nearly 3,000 young people from Chicago’s South and West Sides on the path to high-quality careers over the next five years.
In partnership with leading community-based organizations including Imagine Englewood if, North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council (NLCCC), Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), UCAN, Chicago Jesuit Academy (CJA) and Chicago Cubs Charities, this research-based, community-informed program will offer workforce readiness through career exposure, paid work experience, skills training and employment opportunities. and employment opportunities.
According to a 2020 report by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism disseminating a 2019 study by the University of Illinois at Chicago, Black and Hispanic Chicagoans aged 16-19 are approximately twice as likely to be out of school and unemployed compared to their white counterparts. Systemic barriers to high-quality jobs contribute to persistent rates of young Chicagoans neither in school nor employed. PREP by PepsiCo Stronger Together represents a strategic shift to an equity-centered model of community engagement to address these disparities and build pathways to workforce preparation.
Ultimately, PREP’s objective is to place youth on a path to high-quality careers which includes a continued commitment to direct hiring across PepsiCo. As part of PREP, PepsiCo will provide support for young people from the South and West Side communities to gain early exposure to careers, paid internship experience and credentials in fields that are relevant to the company’s Chicago operations with the intention to help young people build careers with PepsiCo and other Chicago employers. PREP builds on PepsiCo’s recent 3-year pilot program with City Colleges of Chicago which resulted in nearly 50 scholarships and more than 20 students receiving employment or work experience at the company.
“Chicago’s South and West Sides are full of talented young people who thrive when provided access to career opportunities and skills training,” said Neil Pryor, President of PepsiCo Beverages North America, Central Division. “Chicago offers one of the most diverse, talented workforces in the United States. Increasing access to high-quality careers across industries enables economic growth in South and West Side communities and also supports a sustainable pipeline of high-potential, diverse talent for PepsiCo’s local business. PREP by PepsiCo Stronger Together is our commitment to inclusive community partnerships which help young people in Chicago realize their potential.”
PREP’s initial programming with leading community-based organizations anchored in or primarily serving the South and West Sides of Chicago includes:
- Cubs Charities: Pepsi is proud to partner with Cubs Scholars as its first and only corporate sponsor, supporting college prep workshops and scholarships for eight high school seniors through a yearlong program as well as offering paid internship opportunities.
- Chicago Jesuit Academy (CJA): PepsiCo is proud to join Jewel-Osco in its support of CJA and will lean in with employee volunteers and financial resources to provide stipends to students as they invest in technical training for programs to help them enter the workforce with competitive skills.
- Imagine Englewood if (IEi): IEi and PepsiCo will offer a career exploration workshop for 20 youth with interest in the professional fields of Research and Development, Marketing and Human Resources.
- North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council (NLCCC): As a convening organization based in North Lawndale, PepsiCo’s support of NLCCC will help develop workforce readiness and skill building programs in collaboration with its network of community-based organizations dedicated to serving residents on Chicago’s West side.
- Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP): PepsiCo’s initial support will build capacity in SWOP’s workforce development program to expand their network of local employers, increase access to violence prevention resources and boost internal capacity to provide soft skills training to community members.
- UCAN: PepsiCo employees will join UCAN’s virtual career exploration workshop for youth ages 12-16, to offer a look into multiple career paths such while also encouraging students to enhance personal branding, soft-skills, and leadership skills.
“PepsiCo intentionally worked with community partners who are the backbones of the South and West side communities to inform their workforce readiness support and NLCCC was proud to be PepsiCo’s advisor,” said Rodney Brown, Executive Committee and Co-Founder of NLCCC. “When our youth and young adults see what’s possible for their future careers, they gain the confidence to pursue those careers — and programs like PREP give them the inspiration, support and skills they need to achieve their dreams. PepsiCo understands that deeply intentional, sustained community engagement leads to both better community outcomes and business outcomes and I encourage other Chicago companies to do the same.”
Pepsi Stronger Together provides support to those in need while building bridges between community, education, and sustainability in communities across the U.S. and now is expanding through a Chicago-specific program, PREP, which has been developed by passionate employees and Chicago Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) including the company’s Black ERG, MOSAIC, and Hispanic ERG Adelante which will be activating community service events with UCAN and Imagine Englewood if.
PREP builds on the company’s 120-year history and investment in Chicago. This program is an extension of PepsiCo’s Racial Equality Journey, a more than $570 million set of commitments over five years to create opportunity and empower Black and Hispanic people in our workforce, business partnerships and communities.
PepsiCo would also like to acknowledge the partnership of the non-profit organizations that participated in the development and design of PREP Stronger Together including: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago, Chicago Cares, Growing Home, Hope Technology and Education Center, Imagine Englewood if, Metropolitan Family Services, New Covenant Community Development Corporation, Southwest Organizing Project, Stay Lit, Step Up, Teamwork Englewood, and UCAN.
For more information on PREP by PepsiCo Stronger Together please visit www.pepsistrongertogether.com/communities/chicago.