Youth Employment Center helping teens build workforce readiness

Prospects for teens finding a summer job this year appear bleak.  In 2000, 45.2 percent of the country’s teenagers had jobs.  That rate has fallen to 26.2 percent – the lowest since the end of World War II.  As California struggles with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, summer job prospects for California teens are exceptionally challenging.

The outlook for local teens this summer, however, has been brighter.  The Youth Employment Center at Social Advocates for Youth recently hired 100 teens from Santa Rosa to participate in its Summer Jobs Program.  Together with Sonoma County, Sonoma County Workforce Investment Board, Sonoma County Water Agency, Sonoma County Office of Education and New Ways to Work, SAY’s Youth Employment Center is providing meaningful summer employment experiences for disadvantaged youth.  Teens are learning how to restore natural habitats, maintain trails, clear creeks and do other public works improvement projects.  They are also learning to take pride in what they do and to give back to the entire community.

SAY’s Youth Employment Center helps youths find jobs all year long, not just during the summer months.  Last year, despite the tough economy, the YEC helped 300 youths find jobs.  Many of the kids we see are from low-income households; some may also have ties to a gang.  Their first introduction to SAY is usually through the Youth Employment Center.  They want a job, and we help them find it.  However, the YEC does much more than play a role in their economic survival.  Along with helping them acquire the skills they need to find a job (how to write a resume, how to complete an employment application, how to prepare for an interview, etc.), we also help them uncover their innate strengths, to see their potential and to set goals to fulfill their potential.  We teach them how to be resilient and how to succeed.  In turn, these young men and women bring us new perspectives on the world and each person’s unique role in it.  The YEC is a safe environment.  In addition to workshops, field trips are also taken to job fairs and local colleges.

In these stressful economic times, it is sometimes difficult to see opportunities that are right in front of us.  Those little tasks you have been putting off until the economy recovers might be accomplished by hiring a teen for just a few hours a week.  A few hours a week may not be much to a business owner, but to a teen it is a lot.  Instead of waiting for the economy to recover, help give it a little push by hiring a teen.

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If you would like further information about SAY and the Youth Employment Center, please call Matt Martin, community resource development director, at 707-544-3299 ext. 226, or e-mail him at mmartin@saysc.org.