Employers and employees alike gathered at a luncheon Wednesday to celebrate the success of JobX, a program which started in mid-January to help local youth, ages 16-24, find and keep jobs.
As of June 16, the young program had 88 youth enrolled and has helped or had contact with 121 youth, according to Sheryl Weinberg, SERRC - Alaska's Education Resource Center executive director. Weinberg added that 48 youth have been placed in work experiences, six have found permanent jobs before entering the work experience and 10 participants were offered permanent jobs during or after their work experience.
"What I most love about JobX is its experiential, hands on approach to preparing young people for work," said Elizabeth Dahl, JobX youth program coordinator. "Young workers need to be taught about the expectations and culture of the workplace."
Funded by the Alaska Youth First Initiative, Department of Labor and Workforce Development (Division of Business Partnerships), JobX is administered by SERRC - Alaska's Education Resource Center and provides participants with experience at local work sites, youth career counseling and labor market information through the AlaskaCareer Information System.
"The purpose of the Alaska Youth First Initiative is to put kids (and young people) in their first job experience," Weinberg said. "So what we're doing is we're recruiting employers from the community who'd be willing to work with young people to provide them their first job experience."
Participants, who are paid by JobX, work at a particular work site for 150 hours, after which work sites are not required to permanently hire the participant.
Specifically, the program trains participants how to create a resume, complete a job application and learn how to use the Alaska Labor Exchange System to do a job search.
"It's not so much developing skills specific to the industry or that business," Weinberg said, "but more of the employability skills, like time management stuff, being respectful, being a good listener or interacting with individuals appropriately, customer service kinds of things."
JobX refers to these employability skills as "soft skills," as opposed to hard skills, such as being able to type 60 words per minute. Soft skills also include punctuality and attendance, people skills, being a team player, building positive relationships, dependability and honesty.
These are the types of skills necessary to find - and keep - a job, said Weinberg, who stated at the luncheon that JobX is currently working with 89 employers to find jobs for Juneau youth.
"A lot of employers come to us and just say, 'You know, we'd like to work with you. We want to provide that kind of relationship to the youth in Juneau,'" Dahl said. "Some employers are just looking for employees, period, because there is a worker shortage in Juneau at the entry level. So they're like, 'Help us to find employees.'"
Nicole Skeek, JobX youth job developer, and Shannon Straight, who were specifically hired to kick off the program, have been key in recruiting employers and matching youth with employers, said Dahl.
"Niki hit the ground running, more like flying," Dahl said. "She rapidly recruited employers and attracted both youth and employers to the program with her dynamic, enthusiastic and positive attitude."
"I like the hope and opportunity that the youth bring to the table, that bright-eyed interest in the far-off, but attainable, goal," Skeek said. "(Participants) come in with the rest of their lives malleable and are open to new ideas."
Skeek, who used to work at the Job Center, said the work pool at JobX is quite different in that usually participants are youth who haven't had much work experience, skills or a trade in their back pocket.
"With our program, we often get a youth who has never done anything besides baby-sit or volunteer but has a great grade-point average and an interest," Skeek said. "With this program, you get a youth who is more open to the idea of school or training."
Alexander "Alex" Kryvoruchko, a JobX participant, agreed.
"Through the JobX program, I got a really good opportunity to become a diesel mechanic," he said. "I was trying to get into the shop for more than a year, but no one would take me without experience, and JobX just gave me a chance to actually do something I want and become something I always wanted to be."
Skeek said this is the biggest reward from working at JobX - finding youth a job experience they might not be able to get on their own.
"JobX is a rewarding program because it can be a win-win all around," Dahl added, "since JobX pays the young workers wages at no cost to the host employer, allowing an employer to test drive a possible future hire for their business. Young people get to try on a possible career for their future education plans, or get their foot in the door with an employer that might not have hired them if they walked in on their own."
Valleri Collins, DHSS microcomputer and network specialist I, agreed.
"We've had the opportunity to hire several interns, but we found it difficult to find interns that were genuinely interested in technology," Collins said. "JobX prescreened the participants before the program referred them to us, so we only had applicants that were interested in a computer support position. It made it much easier for us to hire our next round of interns, because we had JobX participants that met all of our requirements for hire, and knew the position well enough to step into that role."
As far as the future for JobX, Dahl said they are always in need of local employers willing to mentor disadvantaged youth who may not have had the chance to practice a "work ethic." But thus far, JobX has received a positive response from both employers and employees.
"Even if a youth doesn't work out, the employers we have who have offered to work with us have been willing to work with us again. They are aware that sometimes things don't always go as planned," Skeek said. "On the other side, the youth are willing to experiment and some have opted to take on multiple work sites so that they can learn. All in all, the interest and the need is there for employers to find people to fill positions and for youth to learn from work experiences. The trade-off is equally beneficial."
Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2272.