OED, Urban League Expand Web Design Program For Small Businesses And Minority Students

Seattle small businesses can now apply for the summer and fall cohorts of the Youth Web Design Program — a partnership between the Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED) and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle (ULMS), that supports local workforce and small business development .

Through the Youth Web Design program, Seattle small businesses without a business website or limited online presence, work with local youth to design modern websites that improve and expand their online presence and business operations. The program also covers all website expenses for the first year, and business owners are taught technical skills needed to maintain and update their websites long-term.

“The Youth Web Design Program matches two of my administration’s major priorities – supporting local small businesses and giving youth hands-on opportunities to learn and grow with technology,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “Facilitating these partnerships between youth and small business through public-private collaboration is a great example of our One Seattle mission – bringing people together to make shared progress.”

During the cohorts, participating youth will work directly with business owners to design professional websites that meet the unique needs of the individual business and can be used as part of their professional portfolio for future employment opportunities. During the program, youth are taught industry standard skills including HTML, CSS, and JAVA, and will earn technical certification for the coding skills they learn. Additionally, each young person will receive paid stipends and will soon earn Career and Technical Education (CTE) credits through Seattle Public Schools.

“Strong partnerships, innovative thinking, and creatively investing resources will help us turn the corner from the pandemic and build a stronger, more equitable local economy filled with wealth building opportunities — especially for Black, Brown and other communities of color that have been systematically excluded. from our region’s prosperity, ”said Markham McIntyre, Interim Director of OED. “This program is a win-win – businesses get better websites and digital presence and young people of color get in-demand skills that will set them up for the jobs of the future in our region. This program is another example of how partnership leads to progress, and it would not be possible without our amazing partner, the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. ”

The Youth Web design program will support 50 small businesses and 50 youth through two cohorts in 2022. The Summer cohort will run from July 6, 2022– August 12, 2022 at Garfield High School, serving 25 small business and 25 youth from any Seattle High School. The fall cohort will serve an additional 25 small businesses and will support an additional 25 youth from September 7, 2022 – January 31, 2023. Young people interested in participating in the Youth Web Design Program should connect with ULMS directly and can learn more at https : //urbanleague.org/youth-web-design-program.

“I was inspired to do this program because I want to pursue a career in design, and I thought this program would help me. The type of skills I’ve learned so far are how to make a website, and how to make it appealing to visitors and different age groups as well — things I didn’t think about ”said Ma’jori Jones, past high school participant .

To be eligible for the program, small businesses must meet the following criteria:

• Business and Occupancy (B&O) fees must be paid in full

• Have a City of Seattle business license

• Business has a physical location (including food trucks and home businesses)

• Cannot be a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization

• Located in Seattle, WA

• Do not currently have a business website or website is significantly outdated and business is unable to perform necessary updates

Applications from small businesses for the 2022 summer cohort will be accepted through May 31, 2022. All applications received after May 31, 2022, will be considered for the 2022 fall cohort. Businesses can apply online at https://form.jotform.com/ULMS/ywd-business-application

The Youth Web Design pilot program was launched in 2020 to respond to two emerging needs. First, as a result of COVID-19 and immediate public health protocols that required social distancing and stay-at-home orders, businesses pivoted their operations and relied on online tools including websites and social media to remain open and connect with customers. Businesses that were without websites and digital tools prior to the pandemic were further impacted economically and faced higher barriers to getting online. Secondly, paid employment and internship opportunities for youth were instantly reduced or eliminated, creating an economic crisis for young people who relied on these opportunities to generate income. In response to these economic and social challenges, OED and ULMS developed this pilot program to educate, train and employ young people, and support small businesses — particularly Black and immigrant owned businesses — the ability to stay open, operate in our virtual environment, and develop sustainable digital tools for immediate and long-term stability.

“Our community is still recovering from the economic impacts of COVID-19 on small businesses. Many of them have faced the challenge of shifting from in-person to online operations for survival without the resources or proficiency needed to do so, ”said Michelle Merriweather, CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Urban League. “This program has given us an opportunity to provide the necessary digital support services to those businesses that are technologically disadvantaged, while simultaneously teaching our young people a set of highly transferable, in-demand skills that can afford gainful employment opportunities without the need for secondary education once they graduate. ”

To date the program has supported getting 28 businesses online and connected with digital tools for long term stability and trained more than 20 youth. With new funding an additional 50 youth and 50 businesses will be supported throughout 2022. Given the initial success of this program, OED and ULMS are planning to launch a future paid training program that will equip young people with social media and marketing skills that will be complimentary to the coding and web design skills taught in the Youth Web Design program.

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