The 2010 Summer Youth Employment Program, sponsored by the Catawba Regional Workforce Investment Board and managed by Carolina Community Actions and Communities-in-Schools, entered its second summer of offering local youth valuable work experiences in area businesses. The program coupled work-readiness classes with “real world” work experience for youth between the ages of 16 and 24. Funded through the American Recovery Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the program provided jobs for over 600 youth in the Catawba region.
Carolina Community Actions recruited interested businesses located in Chester and York Counties to become a mentoring worksite/employer for eligible youth during April and May. Communities-in-Schools of Lancaster recruited businesses in Lancaster County. After completing Workforce Investment Act (WIA) certification and introductory job training, youth were available to work a maximum of 30 hours per week for 8 weeks or a maximum of 240 hours at no cost to the mentoring worksites/employers. Worksite coordinators were encouraged to design meaningful work experience in accordance with the skills and abilities of their participants and, of course, meet their business’ needs. The youth earned the federal minimum wage and were paid directly by their respective managing agency. Participating businesses simply reported the youth’s weekly hours worked and completed a brief evaluation of the youth’s job performance.
A business leader from last year stated, “It is one thing to teach job skills and give a grade for effort in a classroom. But, when they are able to experience a true workplace, earn money for their efforts, and learn valuable work skills that can be used later as they pursue careers, then, the learning environment becomes truly authentic.” For the participants, there is an opportunity to learn workplace skills needed for later career success. One of last year’s youth stated, “I’ll be able to use these skills in different jobs. I learned to be on time, how to come to work with great enthusiasm and how to manage responsibilities. Thanks to this program, I can go to an interview, present myself appropriately, and get the job.”