WorkReady program promotes internships for teens
Somaly Srey’s life was changed by an internship — an opportunity that opened up her horizons and helped her settle on a career path. City and business officials want to give other teenagers a similar chance.
“As a result of my internship I was offered employment opportunities, said Srey, a 2007 graduate of John Bartram High School who once interned at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the oncology department. “My internship at CHOP was one of the best experiences I had.”
Prior to her work at the hospital, Srey had not considered a job in health care, but after working there as a summer intern she decided to pursue a career in one of the nation’s fastest growing economic sectors.
The 24-year-old, who now works at CHOP as a clinical research coordinator and is pursuing a graduate degree, spoke at a press conference held by Mayor Michael Nutter as he announced a challenge to the city’s business community — asking the city’s 30,000 employers to hire 10,000 teenagers this summer for a minimum of six weeks in July and August through the WorkReady program.
“I’m challenging the entire city of Philadelphia to come together and create 10,000 summer jobs for 2013,” said the mayor, urging big businesses, small businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals to work together on job creation. “What has been happening is not enough.”
Last year, roughly 6,500 teens got internships through the WorkReady program. Organizers said more than 15,000 young adults applied for a slot. So, Nutter decided to issue his challenge to the business community.
Nutter said about 5,000 slots have been opened up, and that he personally would be campaigning for businesses and nonprofits to create more.
Thanking businesses for their hiring last year, he added, “We need more. Nationwide, youth employment is at its lowest level since World War II.”
Pennsylvania’s youth unemployment rate is roughly 15 percent higher than the average, according to the U.S. labor bureau in November. Nutter’s challenge more than doubles the 5,000 slots that employment experts expect for the city.
The program has the endorsement of business leaders.
“It’s a critical issue,” said Dan Fitzpatrick, chairman of the board of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and regional CEO for Citizens Bank. “We can’t grow economically if we don’t improve the skillsets of our young people. It starts with education and workforce development.”
Nutter linked the program to the city’s economic future.
“The economic vitality of our city comes from a highly skilled and well-trained workforce,” he said. “This is a chance to make sure that the next generation of Philadelphia’s workers are already a step or two ahead.”
For employers who can’t hire a teen, the WorkReady program allows companies and individuals to sponsor an internship at another employer, or make a contribution toward the program, which will be used to place a teen in another slot or subsidize employment through another employer.
More information is available on the Web at www.phillysummerjobs.org.