HELPS TEENS FIND WORK,
by Doris Wolf
Out of school? Looking for work? Seneca County’s Workforce Development/Youth Bureau program may be able to help!
Finger Lakes Workforce New York offers year-round programs for youth age 16-21. The program helps young people discover their skills and talents and find employment in appropriate fields. It also helps young people develop a good work ethic by learning to come to work on time, be prepared, and remain employed.
“Although the focus is on kids who are out of school, you don’t have to be a drop out to qualify. Some of the youth are high school graduates,” said Deborah McGrimley. Seneca County Employment & Training Youth Coordinator.
“The program is designed to enhance work readiness, work ethic, entry-level occupational skills, career awareness, team-building skills and financial literacy with the end goal of preparing youth to obtain self-sustaining employment,” she said. When needed, Workforce/Youth Bureau refers youth to other local agencies for appropriate services.
The program is funded by a federal grant, and participants are required to meet eligibility requirements. They include: specific income requirements or having a documented disability or an IEP. Referrals are also received from Annie Mahoney, Runaway Homeless Youth Coordinator, as well as from other agencies.
McGrimley said about 20 slots currently are available, offering jobs at the standard minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Participants typically work about 25 hours per week.
In addition to helping young people identify their skills, interests and abilities, the program helps youth develop long-term and short–term goals, and helps them prepare for postsecondary educational opportunities. While on the job, the program provides job counseling and follow up.
Donita Henry, youth employment and training counselor, said the goal is to help young people find a career, not just a job. “They may try various fields before finding the right fit, she said. “And they will participate in our career exploration program to learn about other fields.”
Through Workforce, young people have participated in a wide variety of jobs, such as dietary helper at a nursing home, sorting and organizing goods at Salvation Army, House of Concern and Community Action Program thrift stores, apprentice mechanic at Monroe Muffler, graphic assistant at Wilson Press, office work at various businesses, as well as working in food service, at restaurants, at ARC, and at tourism attractions. McGrimley said Workforce is always looking for new and different types of work sites.
“Sometimes, when a young person experiences a job, they discover they like it, and decide to seek additional education in the field,” Henry said. She recalled one young worker who had a position at a local bed and breakfast, and decided to go to college to study hospitality management. Another person worked at the ARC and decided to become involved with the developmentally disabled. A young woman who worked at a nursing home decided to pursue education to become a certified nursing assistant. Workforce is helping her obtain scholarships so she can pursue her dream.
“For others, college is not for them, so this job is a stepping stone to permanent employment,” Henry said. “Sometimes the employer decides they want to keep the youth on as a permanent employee.”
Advanced manufacturing and other higher tech fields are actively seeking employees, and Workforce participants could qualify for free tuition at technical schools to secure higher paying jobs.
And what’s in it for employers? Plenty, said McGrimley. The federal grant pays the participant’s wages, worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance. Employers have the opportunity hire the participant any time during the program. Having the youth work through the Workforce program first gives the employer the chance to observe their work behavior.
Employers are expected to provide a meaningful work experience and adequate supervision for the youth and allow them to attend periodic educational programs. “We expect them to act as a mentor,” Henry said. “We conduct workshops to help the participants learn to be good employees, but the best way to learn is on the job.”
Employers will complete a bi-weekly timesheet and periodic evaluations, and complete a survey at the end of the program to help continuously improve the program.
Roy Spring from G.W. Lisk Co. said, “The program is vital in our efforts to educate and retain a strong workforce for our future. It provides a valuable service to both students, in terms of career exploration, and to businesses, to mold and groom a future employee. The participants’ youthful enthusiasm and energy can become contagious and that is a hidden benefit to our current employees.”
The Workforce Youth Program is also offered in Ontario, Wayne, and Yates County.
Interested youth should contact Seneca County Workforce Development/Youth Bureau at 315-539-1905 or www.co.seneca.ny.us/workforce.php
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