Pathways to Employment

Pathways to Employment

Summer work programs provide meaningful jobs for young people 

By Rebecca Kuzins 05/08/2014

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It used to be easy for a high school student to find a summer job at McDonald’s or someplace offering entry-level positions and low wages. But the employment outlook became a lot bleaker after the Great Recession of 2008, when students suddenly found themselves competing with many experienced workers who had lost their jobs.
   
“The jobs that were typically available for the young people were being taken by seasoned workers,” said Kardia Pinckney, co-founder of the Ideal Youth, a Pasadena-based youth workforce development program. “So now there’s not as many opportunities for students who may truly want to work, who may need to work. … They now have to compete with people who are their parents’ age, their grandparents’ age.”

Instead of job-hunting on their own, local youth generally have an easier time finding summer work through the area’s job placement programs. The programs operated by the Foothill Workforce Investment Board (FWIB), the city of Pasadena, the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) and Ideal Youth not only try to find  summer jobs that match students’ interests and career aspirations; they also teach students the “soft skills” needed to survive in an increasingly competitive workforce. This work-based learning usually includes advice on preparing a resume, conducting a job interview, getting to work on time, dressing for success, interacting with co-workers and supervisors, providing good customer service, and retaining a job.  
 
FWIB’s Foothill Youth Self-Sufficiency Program helps young people between the ages of 14 and 21 find work during the summer and school year. Youth Program Coordinator Sarah Toni Mendoza-Jaime said the program received a grant from Los Angeles County that will create 200 jobs this summer for low-income and foster youth who are 18 or older.

“We really encourage the youth to stay in school,” explained Dianne Russell, an FWIB operations manager who works with Mendoza-Jaime. “When they work during the summer, they begin to understand what work is all about.”

However, she added, “When they go to work, the work takes over and school suffers. Foothill’s stance is [for young people] to use work-based learning to use the work opportunities and to learn that the more advanced education you can get, the more opportunities you will have in the world of work.” 

Over the years, FWIB has placed students in public-sector positions for the cities of Pasadena, Monrovia and Duarte; Los Angeles County agencies; and the California Highway Patrol, among others. Some private employers — including Party City, the Altadena Country Club and Fresh & Easy grocery stores — have also offered positions. FWIB is trying to persuade private-sector employers to create more jobs for young people.

The city of Pasadena’s Human Services and Recreation Department is also seeking more private-sector summer jobs for its long-standing Summer ROSE (Rewarding Opportunities in Summer Employment) Program. ROSE is financed by the city and has traditionally offered jobs in city agencies and other government positions. Department Director Mercy Santoro said Leadership Pasadena Youth Employment Support, a group of professionals that works to improve the community, has developed and initiated a marketing campaign to “to locate 15 placement opportunities for young people with the business sector.” These opportunities, she added, will hopefully lead to a “scale-up” in private-sector positions “that would not only positively impact the business community but really enrich the lives of our young people by delivering a real career pathway to them.” 

ROSE, which for many years accepted students between the ages of 16 and 21, has now returned to its original policy of serving youth between the ages of 14 and 24. The program also increased student workers’ salaries from $8 to $9 an hour. In addition to the age requirements, program participants must reside in Pasadena and meet the US Department of Housing and Labor Development (HUD) low-income guidelines.
  
The deadline to apply for ROSE was April 10. ROSE will employ about 160 young people from July 1 through Aug. 15. Participants must complete up to 140 hours in their paid work assignments and receive weekly soft-skills training. 
Both the city and PUSD this summer will take part in a government-funded program that was introduced last year. The Careers to Conservation Program will enable 30 students in the Engineering and Environmental Science Pathway at John Muir High School to work in environment-related occupations. Ten students will work as camp directors or naturalists; 10 others will be employed in various aspects of outdoor work, such as harvesting native plants and trial design; and 10 more will work at US forests and national parks. Careers to Conservation is funded by the city of Pasadena, Los Angeles County and the US Forest Service. 

According to Marisa Sarian, PUSD’s director of college and career pathways, the school district is also attempting to place 11th-graders in summer internships related to the pathways in which they are enrolled. Eligible students must be available for summer work and have a grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 or higher. 

Some district students, she added, will find work or internships through Summer ROSE or Ideal Youth. In addition, PUSD this summer is seeking to place about 50 students who have already received work-readiness training in positions at Caltech, JPL, the Levitt Pavilion concert series and other Pasadena-area workplaces. 
  
Ideal Youth’s summer internship was created in 2009 to help prepare young people for the world of work. “There were youth programs in existence before then,” said co-founder Ishmael Trone. “They taught students how to build a resume, how to dress for success. And at the end of the training they received a pizza party and a certificate and that was the end of the experience.”

Trone, a tax accountant and a former City Council candidate, and Pinckney, a financial adviser, sought to establish what Trone described as “an advanced internship program where the students receive technical training and upon completion a guaranteed internship position in a career field that they are interested in.”

Ideal Youth provides paid and unpaid internships to students between the ages of 16 to 20 who are high school juniors and seniors and college freshmen with GPAs of 2.0 or higher. Students are placed in positions that match their interests, which in the past included working for attorneys, veterinarians, sports medicine providers, public relations directors, and local arts organizations, among others. In its first year, only nine students were placed in internships; this summer, 100 students will participate in the program.

Like the other summer job programs, Ideal Youth is seeking to make more opportunities available in private-sector positions. To attain this goal, in 2012 Ideal Youth entered into a partnership with the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, in which the chamber agreed to actively encourage the business community to create summer jobs for young people. 

Some students who have completed Ideal Youth’s summer program are now working for Rose City Java, a company co-founded by Ideal Youth and Pete Galanis, owner of Cameron’s Seafood Restaurant & Bar in Pasadena. The company has a subcontract with the Rose Bowl to sell Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf products during UCLA football games and other arena events.  

Because of Ideal Youth’s programs, Trone said, students “know they’re going to get trained, they know they’re going to get the internships experience, and they know they are going to have a permanent paid job. This will increase graduation rates, this will increase attendance in high school. Hopefully, it will stop the gang activity going on in town.”  

To learn more about the summer job programs, or to offer a young person a job with your business or company, contact:

* Foothill Workforce Investment Board, Sarah Toni Mendoza-Jaime, (626) 584-8383, smendoza@foothilletc.org
* Summer ROSE Program, Rozanne Adanto, (626) 744-6530, radanto@cityofpasadena.net
* Pasadena Unified School District, Marisa Sarafian, (626) 396-3600 ext. 88429 or Rose Valdez, (626) 396-3600 ext. 88425
* Ideal Youth, (626) 796-7164 ext. 16, idealyouth.org  

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