A youth checks the gears on a tabletop windmill with one hand, while she holds control board in the other.

MIGIZI Green Jobs Pathway: Preparing Native American Youth for Green Energy Careers

Clean energy jobs are in high demand. According to Clean Energy Economy Minnesota, clean energy jobs in Minnesota grew 2.5 times faster than the state’s overall job growth in 2018. MIGIZI - a Minneapolis nonprofit organization working with Native American youth - created the Green Jobs Pathway program to help youth become financially independent and learn about careers in the green economy.

MIGIZI’s program helps youth discover their cultural role as caretakers of the earth, develop their workplace skills, and complete postsecondary coursework or credentials. It also directly addresses graduation disparities between Minnesota’s American Indian students and white, non-Hispanic students.

Preparing Native American youth to become financially independent

Green Jobs Pathway provides education and support through a 9-week Indigenous Stewardship Institute for students at risk of not finishing high school or earning a degree. Participants also receive paid internships and are encouraged to contribute to the program’s matched-savings Individual Development Account to help pay for future postsecondary education costs. The skills learned in the program can help youth become financially secure, an important goal when poverty rates among American Indian Minnesota are significantly higher than among white Minnesotans. This disparity is the result of systemic “displacement, oppression, and neglect in American public policy” that continue to affect Native Americans.

Creating a program evaluation that adapts to changing needs

With funding from Youthprise and the Opportunity Reboot initiative, MIGIZI worked with Wilder Research to evaluate Green Jobs Pathway in 2016-17 and 2017-18 to explore program experiences and outcomes for youth, and examine how strategies and activities are working to achieve intended goals. The evaluation included focus groups with youth participants and interviews and surveys with MIGIZI staff. In addition, staff were asked to complete a program mapping tool, including a self-evaluation of their work and to identify any anticipated changes needed. The evaluation was iterative during implementation, allowing MIGIZI staff to engage in program improvement at several stages and contributing to program success.

The evaluation findings showed the program was successful in:

  • Engaging and retaining participants in the program. Most youth (77%) participated in more than 150 program hours. Almost all youth (94%) completed the job skills training or credential programs.
  • Offering participants a large array of learning opportunities and supports. The program offered opportunities for: hands-on experiments in solar, electricity, thermal, and wind turbine topics; conducting research and presentations; attending conferences; participating in college and commercial plant tours; and learning about financial management, job skills and goal setting, and green economy careers.

The evaluation also showed success in strengthening program implementation. Additional opportunities for improvements were identified, including expanding the program to non-Native American youth participants during the summer session, improving the data collection system and process to better track individual youth outcomes, and strengthening the partnerships with postsecondary institutions and renewal energy businesses.  

Read a summary of the MIGIZI Green Jobs Pathway Program evaluation findings.

Photo courtesy of MIGIZI.

They really encouraged me to do a lot better and to improve myself.

Green Jobs Pathway youth participant