Mission: Give young people skills, develop their core talents
Thousands of Philadelphia-area youth will either obtain gainful employment or the skills necessary to compete for it, thanks to collaboration between the Philadelphia Youth Network, the Philadelphia Council for College and Career Success and a consortium of more than 50 area non-profit organizations.
PYN’s WorkReady Summer 2012 program, which began last week and runs through August 10, is designed to reach the important, at-risk 14- to 21-year old demographic. The idea is to match the youth with either skills training or employers who will complement and expand the skills the young people already possess. These opportunities range from working in various non-profit organizations and government-funded agencies to community engagement offices and numerous corporate offerings.
“Young people want to work. The evidence of that is seen in not only the numbers that are able to work each year, but also in the amount that remain on the waiting list,” said PYN President and CEO Stacy E. Holland. It’s in our collective best interest to do all we can to put young people to work, because the benefits of summer jobs to youth extend beyond the money that they earn.
“Summer jobs are an opportunity for them to learn about careers they never knew existed, and to be connected to local professionals,” Holland continued. “They are also a way to begin to prepare our region’s future workforce.”
The WorkReady program comes at a crucial time, as unemployment rates in Philadelphia and throughout the state continue to creep higher. According to data from the Center for Workforce Development and Analysis, Pennsylvania’s overall unemployment rate stood at 7.4 percent as recently as May, and unemployment among African Americans throughout the state climbed to 15.9 percent, and for females the rate was 7.9 percent.
Of note, the numbers were highest among the demographic WorkReady is trying to reach: the unemployment rate for 16 to19 year-olds rose to 17.4 percent. Long-term, when education level is considered, the numbers show that 14.1 percent of those young adults who do not have a high school diploma are unemployed.
This year’s implementation of the WorkReady program utilizes a three-pronged approach to the problem. It provides service learning, work experience and internship components, each designed to produce a well-rounded, able worker.
Workers like 18-year-old Brianna Cunningham.
Cunningham came through the program in 2010 and has worked at Cancer Treatment Centers of America for the past two summers. ““My WorkReady internship at CTCA allowed me to explore different careers in the healthcare industry,” Cunningham said in a statement released by PYN. “I’ve built relationships with the doctors, nurses and other staff members, which I know will be valuable as I work toward my goal of becoming a pediatrician. I’m excited about being back this summer.”
Pennoni Associates Inc., one of the more than 50 groups signed on as a provider organization, and its CEO Anthony S. Bartolomeo, believes organizations like his should be more involved in kick-starting the professional careers of those contributing to Philadelphia’s future.
“Exposing these students to the workplace and getting them interested in our professions helps us to create a pipeline of future talent,” said Bartolomeo, who also serves as the employer chair of the Philadelphia Council for College and Career Success. “In addition, summer jobs through WorkReady provide youth with access to networks of caring employers who can serve as resources to young people as they continue through their education and into careers.”