New Lessons Learned As Youth Program Hits 3rd Year

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Education on proper work attire and etiquette is perhaps the most important component of the summer work experience; this intern at United Way of Northeast Florida has been well-coached by his mentor. (Ingrid Damiani)

For the third year, a cadre of young people in Jacksonville are experiencing summer employment — earning money, learning about the world of work and discovering something about themselves — through a program launched and supported by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.

The Youth Employment Program, operated by United Way of Northeast Florida, provides a group of  teens ages 16-19 job-readiness training, individual coaching and a workshop in financial management before connecting them with six-week paid internships. To be eligible, youth must have a grade point average of at least 2.0 and qualify for free or reduced-price lunch or have a family income equal to or less than 185% of the federal poverty level.

This summer, 128 young people are participating in the program, working at jobs within 47 different enterprises — 19 for-profits, 19 nonprofits, seven faith-based organizations, Duval County Public Schools and Florida Department of Health.

The program not only has helped the students learn about the world of work, it has helped the Jessie Ball duPont Fund learn about preparing students for the world of work.

Through the first two years of the program, staff at United Way and the Jessie Ball duPont Fund have learned that one of the program’s most valuable components is job-readiness training — helping young people develop the “soft skills” that will improve their chances of success in the workplace.

“Many of these young people need more than a chance at a job, they need to learn the non-technical skills that will help them be successful in the workplace — throughout their working life,” said Katie Ensign, senior program officer for the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.

To understand more about the components of good job-readiness training and the role that it plays in preparing young people for work and career, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund asked the Pratt Richards Group to explore the topic in more depth.

Their report — Soft Skill Development in Youth Employment — is now posted on our website.  It discusses the ways in which these skills are defined, examples of best practices in helping youth develop these skills and ways to assess skill development.