From April to July 2016 the number of unemployed youth 16-24 shockingly reached 20.5 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. UCAN works to combat that problem by providing teens and young adults with vital resources and putting them to work. After our eighth successful summer employment initiative, it’s clear that summer job programs keep youth off of the streets and provide essential skills and connections that can help pave the way for successful futures.
For Renita White, UCAN’s Senior Vice President of Housing in 2016, Workforce Development and Special Projects, it was a quote – “A Job Saves A Life” – from a conference a year ago that turned a light on for her. “That quote resonated with me. They do save lives and our work is not complete until we can advocate for similar programs year round,” she said. Various public and private partnerships, including One Summer Chicago Plus, Summer Youth Employment Expansion, Summer Youth Employment Program/Chicago Housing Authority and GreenCorps, made it possible for UCAN to place almost 300 youth into summer jobs this year, 130 of whom were between ages18-24. The majority of participants were from Chicago’s most at-risk communities such as Humboldt Park, Austin, North Lawndale and South Lawndale, and represented 18 zip codes.
UCAN’s employment programs places emphasis on matching youth with job sites based on their interests. They receive hands on experiences that can easily be applied to other opportunities as they move forward with school or permanent employment. Thirty companies from industries such as retail, healthcare, social media, childcare, manufacturing, administration, social services, welcomed our youth for the summer. Youth earned a certificate upon completion of job readiness workshops that prepared them with skills in resume writing, interviewing, conflict resolution and workplace retention. Youth also participated in outings to partnering corporate and educational institutions such as Google, Schwab, the Art Institute and Malcom X College.
“Our youth learn viable skills and form important relationships with employers while learning how to navigate the world of work. In many communities these programs bridge gaps by bringing higher education and work experience to the forefront earlier than usual in a young person’s life,” said Renita.
Read further for some success stories of specific youth involved in UCAN’s programming:
Through UCAN’s program 19-year-old Sequena landed her first real job. Previously, Sequena was a volunteer for after-school programs where she worked with children. She was able to transfer these skills into her summer position as a camp counselor. As an incoming college freshman preparing to start school at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, Sequena believes she will continue to make use of the information she gained from UCAN’s program. “I can use a lot of stuff they taught me in the future. UCAN teaches life lessons that are important. They are here to help you as long as you are willing to help yourself,” she said.
After a successful placement at Walgreen’s, high school senior Senicka is pursuing a permanent position with the company. “This was my first time having to work with customers. I’ve learned a lot. The others workers are nice to me and say I do a good job. They motivate me. Glenn, my job coach, is very nice, always helps me out and is there when I need something. He’s inspiring to me,” she stated.
For 17-year-old Tyrell, working at Cook County’s Records Storage and Digital Imaging Center, he not only acquired information about legal proceedings but learned a variety of new skills that he can apply in future positions. “I learned more about divorce cases, domestic violence and all the files needed to go into the cases. It was pretty interesting.” How did UCAN staff help prepare him for the interview? “I did not know what to wear. UCAN staff helped me. I saw UCAN staff as my second teachers but for the real world. If they did not tell me, I probably would not be working.”
Tyrell added his UCAN job coaches worked to instill character traits such as ethics, respect and self-confidence. Additionally, they reinforced teamwork, communication skills, maintaining a positive attitude and respect for peers and supervisors. “I come to work happy. I do that because someone is outside probably wishing they had my job,” he stated. “UCAN has a lot to bring to the table for teens in my generation. Based off of everything that is going on in Chicagoland, UCAN can be a huge support in stopping the violence by giving jobs and keeping kids off of the street.”
For more information on UCAN’s workforce development programs please visit www.ucanchicago.org/workforcedevelopment.