We partnered with AAMA to create a Work & Learn Centre, empowering disconnected youth to achieve their potential

Youth unemployment is a pressing problem in Houston (TX), with nearly one in seven young adults between 16 to 24 years old who are neither employed nor in education or training (NEETs).

The Latino community is particularly affected, with 17% of Latino Houstonian youth classed as NEETs and 50% of adults with incomplete high school studies. To address this issue, the Trafigura Foundation joined forces with the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans (AAMA), an institution with over 48 years of experience in the education and training of disadvantaged Latin American communities in Texas.

Building on a successful intervention model that was first co-created by the Trafigura Foundation in Stamford (CT), and subsequently, replicated and refined in New Orleans (LA), we partnered with AAMA to pilot a third Work & Learn Center (W&LC) in Houston. The W&LC model aims to empower disconnected youth through a programme blending hard and soft skills training and offering practical opportunities for learning and work experience. Through small “Work and Learn” enterprises, set up and geared to operate as fully functional, client-driven businesses – youth have access to on-the-job training and can build their professional skills before advancing onto new opportunities in employment, education or training. The benefits are twofold: on the one hand, youth gain invaluable work experience to build their competencies and inspire new interests, and on the other hand, revenues generated by the small enterprises can contribute towards making training itself more sustainable.

AAMA’s new W&LC, a Graphic Design Studio Enterprise, was launched in July 2019. Our pilot programme offers soft sills training and graphic design instruction to disconnected youth, helping them to advance on a positive pathway towards gainful employment, further education or training.

Over the eight-month pilot, 31 participants completed the training with 16 (51%) transitioning into fair employment after the programme and 6 (19%) moving into post-secondary education. The remaining 9 graduates of the programme have expressed an intention to enrol in post-secondary education within the next 6 months.

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Read the story of Nestor, AAMA’s programme participant

Nestor, who is 22 years old, came to the W&LC via a friend’s recommendation. Prior to joining the programme, he was struggling to find a job. While receiving the training at the W&LC, Nestor increased his self-confidence and displayed great leadership amongst his peers.

He successfully completed the programme and went on to a paid internship at Human Age Digital, a digital enterprise that helps mission-driven organizations organise political campaigns and discover new supporters. Furthermore, thanks to the skills he has acquired in the programme, Nestor created a YouTube channel for his father’s business. More recently, he secured a job with Amazon getting paid $15 per hour. Nestor says that the W&LC has given him confidence to engage with new people and has opened doors that he never knew were there.

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Key figures


participants completed the training


programme participants secured a job


people transitioned into post-secondary education

31 participants completed the training
16 programme participants secured a job
6 people transitioned into post-secondary education

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