The Johnson & Johnson Bridge to Employment Program: Corporate Responsibility and Youth Employment

Saturday, 4 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
TW2.3.01 (Tower Two)
Michael J Camasso, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Radha Jagannathan, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Michael J Bzdak, Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, NJ
Laura Hollod, Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, NJ
It is clear that the relationship between a business and its stakeholders has changed dramatically over the past ten years. Fundamental questions of value creation are at the heart of this evolving dynamic. Beyond returning value to shareholders, companies are increasingly expected to return social value to all of their stakeholders and engage with stakeholders more deeply.  Building trust among stakeholders has become an additional business imperative. The new business environment has inspired a new generation of multi-sectoral partnerships are emerging that are built on evidence-based solutions and well-designed measurement and data systems. An exemplar of one such partnership is the Bridge-to-Employment program, founded by Johnson & Johnson.

The Johnson & Johnson Bridge-to-Employment (BTE) program is grounded in a partnership model among multiple stakeholders in targeted communities without expectation by the corporation that the student will become a company employee. Key partners comprise the local Johnson & Johnson company, FHI 360, schools, other businesses, educators, parents, and community groups. The BTE Program was established in 1992 by the office of Corporate Contributions at Johnson & Johnson to expose young people to careers in health care and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and to help them understand and experience these careers in real-work settings.  As part of a community responsibility strategy, the Corporation literally set out to bridge the gap between the classroom and the workplace. Johnson & Johnson has supported sites in communities throughout the United States, Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe.  Starting in 2005, BTE became a global initiative with the launch of a program in Cork, Ireland. To date, Johnson & Johnson has funded 68 BTE programs, 51 in the United States. and Puerto Rico, and 17 outside the United States.  Four new programs start each year, and more than twelve programs are operating at any given time.

BTE provides communities with an evidence-based model to help move youth to sustainable careers primarily in the STEM and healthcare industries. Unlike other school-to-career efforts, this program is less about preparing for an immediate career and more about being prepared for secondary education.  This is especially relevant given that the healthcare industry and STEM industry hire very few employees without advanced degrees.

Founded on a common core of what the literature posits to be proven school-to-career principles, BTE creates opportunities for businesses, educators, community groups, and parents to build long-term partnerships.  These partnerships can have a meaningful impact on students' future success in the workplace, and by extension, produce broader educational and economic effects within the communities in which these partnerships operate. 

BTE is committed to re-establishing and enhancing the critical connection between academic achievement and practical application – the connection between the world of school and the world of work.  The program helps young people build viable futures by introducing them to a broad array of careers in health care and STEM fields and providing them with real world experiences that link back to their classroom studies.  BTE supports educational reform by communicating to students, especially those most at-risk of dropping out, that learning can be meaningful, engaging, and relevant.  Throughout all BTE programs, elements are specifically designed to meet local needs.

A key design element of BTE is a rigorous monitoring and evaluation framework and professional evaluators attached to each BTE program site. This paper will share results from the impact assessment of 16 BTE programs funded by Johnson & Johnson in Northeastern and Central United States. All of the programs were evaluated by a research team from Rutgers University using a mixed mode approach that included the quantitative analyses of student math and science grades and self-reported changes in student soft skills. These data were complemented by the qualitative analyses of student focus group and BTE mentor/tutor survey data. Quantitative analyses was facilitated by experimental or quasi-experimental designs that permitted both pre-post and treatment non-treatment group comparisons. Results indicate that BTE has had a significant positive impact on important soft skill development including problem solving, communication, and teamwork skills. BTE also exerted a positive influence on student awareness of necessary career path steps and skills. Results with respect to cognitive skill development are more mixed with BTE showing limited immediate impact on science and math grades and test scores. Key programmatic elements responsible for positive changes in non-cognitive and cognitive skills set are discussed in this paper.

The BTE program can be a model for companies seeking to return social value to all of their stakeholders.  In this case, the Corporation acts as a catalyst and convener to help a community tackle the core issue of preparing young people for further education and careers in growing areas of the economy. BTE provides an effective way for companies to engage with multiple community stakeholders and to co-design interventions to help members of the community. These types of engagements lead to strengthening and building the social capital that can enable multiple actions in a given community, and also to help make employment policies at the local and state levels that affect youth.

In this paper, we propose to describe the Johnson & Johnson corporate social responsibility model via the BTE program, and provide empirical evidence on the program’s impact in the Northeastern United States.