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Cutler Institute publishes article on innovative, evidence-based youth employment model


The Cutler Institute at USM’s Muskie School of Public Service recently released an article that documents policy and practice recommendations to address Maine’s pressing workforce needs and engage high-school-aged young people in 21st century skills development.

The article, titled “Gateway to Opportunity: A promising summer youth employment model to address local workforce needs,” which has been published by the Maine Policy Review, details the five-year community-driven effort to develop, implement, evaluate, and expand the comprehensive model.

According to the reports’ authors, the Gateway to Opportunity (G2O) program is a youth-adult partnership model that connects high-school-aged young people with paid, work-based learning projects at Maine-based businesses and nonprofits where they hone and develop 21st century skills. The model, which is grounded in national best practices and lessons learned, is not only a successful workforce development program, but also a critical lever for addressing Maine’s workforce shortage. The program provides young people with valuable opportunities for skill-building employment experiences while also developing talent pipelines for Maine’s businesses and nonprofits. “The G2O program is an innovative approach to summer employment for young people and is a unique program here in Maine,” expressed one of the articles co-authors, Nikki Williams from the Cutler Institute’s Youth and Community Engagement team. “We are delighted to share our learnings from the past five years of growing and innovating on this dynamic program model with the field.”

“Coordinating the G2O program over the past few years, seeing it grow in its expansion and reach across Maine has been incredibly exciting,” commented Alastair Lawson, from the Maine Youth Action Network (MYAN) who is the lead implementation partner for the program. “G2O has worked for so long because of the detailed and intentional approach it fosters for young people, local organizations and their communities. G2O is a privilege to be part of and I hope we can continue to see it flourish across Maine.”

“G2O is community-based. It’s about the people, how to help people, and how to make Portland thrive. It has really been a strong opportunity for me and has improved my public speaking skills at my high school and in the community,” said Joshua Mutshaila during an interview about G2O with University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings. Joshua completed the program during the summer of 2019 while attending high school in Portland. 

Since its launch in the summer of 2016, the G2O program has worked with nearly 120 young people (85% of who report primarily speaking a language other than English in their home and 83% of who identify as people of color), 30 college-aged, near-peer mentors who serve in the role of team leaders, and over 20 host site organizations. Results of a multi-year analysis of evaluation data demonstrate positive outcomes of the program for the three target populations: high-school-aged young people, college-aged Team Leaders, and local employer host site supervisors.

The article cites that the multilayered approach of the program builds public-private partnerships and connects and engages different populations across communities. The authors argue that the evidence of success positions the program for support and expansion across Maine so that a broader sector of businesses, agencies, and organizations benefit from this targeted workforce development effort.

For more information about the G2O program visit: