Program connects young people, employers

OCEANSIDE — It’s no secret that while unemployment rates have stabilized, the number of people out of work is unprecedented in the nation’s history. The impact of a stagnate economy on teens looking for career track work is compounded by numerous factors including inexperience in the hidden job market.
The task of beginning a career is daunting for youth who have multiple barriers to higher education and employment, including living at or below the poverty level, exposure to gang violence, foster care living situations and adjudication issues.
Maren Dellin, the job developer at Interfaith Community Services’ Transitional Youth Academy, is working to connect work ready teens with North County employers to give students at Oceanside High School an opportunity to begin their careers despite the tough economy.
The employment program is a collaborative effort between Interfaith Community Services’ Transitional Youth Academy and the career center at Oceanside High School that is funded by the Gary and Mary West Foundation.
While the program is in its infancy, there are hopes to expand.
“The career counseling program and the job developer position is being piloted at Oceanside High School and if successful and goals are met, it is the intent that it will be replicated at the two other local Oceanside high schools,” said Jeannine Guarino, the academy’s program manager.
That’s good news for employers who are looking for a work-ready employee and for students seeking jobs that offer upward mobility. Student job-seekers are taught skills that are invaluable in the highly competitive job market.
“The job market doesn’t look very rosy,” Dellin said.
In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teen unemployment rates are three times that of the national average. In California only 18.5 percent of all teens are employed according to the most recent Census data. That’s down 15 percentage points from 10 years ago.
However, the students enrolled in the AARC, or Academic Acceleration and Recovery Center, at the high school are learning what it takes to get a foot in the door of a desirable employer.
Larry Smith, 18, has benefited from the program. The Oceanside High School senior landed a job at Sears six months ago. “They helped us learn how to dress appropriately, practice interviews, write our resume and fill out job applications,” he said.
Smith said he hopes to eventually join the armed forces. “I think everything I’ve learned (in the program) will help me at any career I go into,” he said.
The odds are stacked against teens looking for work. The national unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds remains above 25 percent; for those ages 16 to 17, the unemployment rate is close to 30 percent according to a recent study. But Dellin and high school career counselor Brad Simi are betting on the students to overcome the barriers to employment and become success stories.
Terrance Nealy, 16, is aiming to reach his educational and economic potential through the program. Upon leaning about a potential job lead, Nealy said he’s going to apply with confidence after all he’s learned in the program. “They teach you how to speak in front of people, as well as writing a resume and all of the things you need to do to find a good job,” he said.
The supportive network is one of the components that ensure success once a student lands a job.
“There would be incidences before where I wouldn’t know how to handle a certain situation in my job and in this program there are people I can turn to to ask those questions,” Nealy said. “The program is really hands on. They don’t just let you go after you get a job.”
Nealy plans to major in psychology and attend college on a bowling scholarship.
When entry-level job hunters are able to find work, they earn more than just a paycheck. They learn valuable life skills like the importance of meeting deadlines, how to report to a manager and how to get along with coworkers.
These are lessons that are not taught in a classroom setting and the job experience young employees acquire sets them up for future success with promotions and raises beyond the minimum wage according to the academy’s findings.
According to studies, teens, especially those who are economically disadvantaged with no paid employment are more likely to drop out of high school, become involved with the criminal justice system and to become pregnant. Minority teens have experienced the sharpest increases in unemployment since 2000.
Yet, teens enrolled in the employment program enter into jobs that have a career path, provide upward mobility and opportunities for advancement into a position that pays a living wage. “The goal is to transition into adulthood and live independently,” Guarino said.
Dellin said bulding a network of employers is key. “We can provide workers who are highly motivated and are constantly supported so that it is a safety net for the employer,” she said.
For more information on the program, contact Dellin at mdellin@interfaithservices.org or at (760) 721-2117, ext. 206.

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