Photos by Ingrid Damiani
In Jacksonville, Florida, more than 100 young people – teens who were in school, working hard and wanting to get ahead – found summer employment in 2013 that did more than provide a paycheck.
The jobs came with a pre-work training program, an on-the-job mentor and coach, and requirements to complete a capstone project.
After 6 weeks of work experience, 104 young people aged 16-19 walked across the stage of the Terry Concert Hall at Jacksonville University and received a certification of completion, adding an important item to resumes they will prepare when they enter the real work world in years to come.
The program, in its second year, was launched by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund in partnership with United Way of Northeast Florida. This year, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch also came on board as a funding partner.
“After the Recession, we noticed that there were many young people who were ambitious, and wanted to work through the summer, but could not find summer employment,” said Sherry Magill, president of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. “We knew from our experience with previous programs what the elements of a successful jobs training program are. With United Way’s help, we were able to design a program that incorporated those elements and brought many different community players to the table.”
In 2013, there were six youth serving organizations that identified prospective youth for the program. In June, 123 of those prospects attended a two-day training session at Florida State College at Jacksonville that helped prepare them for the world of work.
In the meantime, United Way staff recruited 50 local businesses to provide jobs for the youth, and taught the businesses what would be expected of their staff as coaches and mentors. Businesses ranged from corporations such as Aetna and Incepture to area churches, nonprofits, the University of North Florida Graduate School and the Jacksonville Port Authority.
The employers provided more than 80 mentors and coaches. Salaries for the youth were provided by the grant funding for the program.
By the end of July, 104 youth had completed the program and received their certificates.
Magill hopes that the collaboration of so many community partners will grow appreciation for the benefits of assisted youth employment programs in the community. “There are hundreds of other young people who would like a summer job but can’t find one,” Magill said. “There is great potential for this program. Our hope is that it becomes institutionalized in the community.”