Promoting SDG 8 in New York through Upskilling

Ashley Bass is a New York-based +SocialGood Connector who is passionate about the intersection of technology and education. Her work focuses on expanding access to stable employment and education opportunities to underserved communities. Learn more about Ashley’s work as part of our SDGs on the Ground series.

Photo by NEXT Academy on Unsplash

Tell us about your current work driving momentum on the SDGs in your community.

In collaboration with my colleagues at GitHub, we’re working on a pilot program — expected to launch in fall 2021 — to pair select U.S. community college students with industry professionals in tech for mentorship and on-the-job work experience that will lead to a capstone project and potentially a paid internship at a large tech company. This initiative directly aligns with SDG 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth.

In the U.S., community college students are often overlooked, especially when it comes to recruiting efforts. Inclusive, predictable employment will always be a goal of mine, especially as it relates to underrepresented populations.

How has COVID-19 impacted SDG implementation in your community/ region/ nation? As some countries begin to focus on recovery from the pandemic, do you notice a greater emphasis on the SDGs or using the SDGs as a roadmap for recovery in your community, and if so, how?

The COVID 19 crisis has increased funding efforts as we see more public and private dollars funneled into initiatives to help the economy recover. During my time as Project Director at The Research Foundation of The City University of New York, I was asked to join a task force to project lead and quickly launch The Chancellor’s Emergency Relief Fund, which brought financial aid to over 5 million CUNY students at the time, in a span of 6 months.

Additionally, in response to COVID-19, I led and launched CUNY Upskilling. As NYC recovers from the pandemic, companies and employees are still adjusting and adapting to our new economy. CUNY Upskilling is a curated list of no-cost virtual training that will help participants acquire the latest professional skills and knowledge to give them a leg up in their job search and help them shine in front of prospective employers. CUNY Upskilling helps to promote SDG 8: sustainable economic growth and decent work for all, and has underlined the need for enhanced public investments. In particular, it has also highlighted the need for more connection and collaboration between the public and private sector.

What are the main challenges and successes you’ve experienced in your work to advance the SDGs in your community/region/nation?

The main challenge is recognizing that there are so many other global challenges that come up and are prioritized each and everyday. Sometimes it’s hard to advocate for SDGs when there’s an immediate need to pivot and direct our attention to another challenge at hand.

In terms of successes, while working with JP Morgan’s Tech for Social Good team, I was able to help facilitate the development of the GenerationTech program before COVID-19 hit. The initiative is a tech design challenge for high school students to brainstorm creative solutions for SDG challenges.

What inspires you to do this work?

I consider myself a lifelong learner. A lifelong learner is someone who keeps acquiring new skills and capabilities well past their formal education years. It involves not only studying new topics but also developing an open-minded, positive attitude about the dynamic nature of the world. This work is dear to me because it brings me joy to help people learn new skills that can set them up for not only better-paying careers but also equip them with a new set of knowledge. This directly aligns with me because I have seen so many success stories of people — specifically from underrepresented communities — becoming skilled in a field that they would’ve never imagined.