More than 100 members of Boys and Girls Clubs from throughout Rhode Island aged 14 to 18 attended a training event last week that focused on youth development and ways for teens to best prepare themselves for employment in today’s economy.
The event, which will continue during the next six weeks at various clubs in the state, such as branches in Newport, East Providence, Pawtucket and Cumberland/Lincoln, was made possible by a Job Development Force (JDF) grant in the amount of $48,000 through the Department of Labor and Training for the Workforce Partnership of Greater Rhode Island. Teens are paid $7.40 per hour for their efforts.
Training kicked off Thursday at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Warwick at 42 Frederick Street, where participants were taught how to prepare a resume, cover letter, balance a check book and the importance of dressing professionally, among other valuable work-based skills.
“We’re learning the things you need to get a stable job,” said Trent, 15, who will be a sophomore at Vets High School in September. “I now have a resume, a cover letter and experience.”
Chris, 17, who will be a senior at Middletown High School in September, agreed. He said the hands-on opportunity is “awesome.”
“For a lot of us, this is our first job and it’s the best way to get started,” he said.
In fact, a majority of the teens are serving as camp counselors to younger children at the B&GC summer camps now taking place in Rhode Island.
Matthew, 17, who will be a senior at East Bay Career Academy of Warren, said the best part of the program is “working with the kids. I used to do the camp and the staff was always there for me. I know a lot of the kids and I can relate to them in certain situations.”
Additionally, teens were educated about how to deal with conflicts at work. As camp counselors for children much younger than them, they’ll be accountable for tackling any problems campers have.
They’ll also be responsible to handle conflicts with co-workers, such as sharing responsibility for the tasks that need to be performed on a daily basis and switching shifts or scheduled hours.
To help with these issues, the teens watched a video that showed them the benefits of evaluating a situation and weighing the pros and cons before reacting.
“There is always a conflict at any job and you need to work it out so you can do your job correctly and learn for the next time instead of getting all crazy and hotheaded or doing something that could result in you losing your job,” Tina Lundgren, the mentoring coordinator of the Cumberland/Lincoln branch and a JDF counselor during summer months, told the teens. “Conflict resolution is a big thing and something you will have to work on your whole life.”
Further, representatives from six in-state colleges, including the Community College of Rhode Island, Johnson & Wales, Rhode Island College, Year Up, Exeter Job Corp., the College Planning Center/the Latino College Access Program, were on-site Thursday afternoon to offer information and assistance to youth.
Each youth, said Lundgred, is required to visit at least two colleges before the six weeks are up. The point is to encourage them to take part in a tour of colleges and get a feel for the schools.
“Our ultimate goal is stressing the importance of higher education,” she said. “If we can get them in there to see the schools, we’re more hopeful that they will go to college.”
Tamara Burman director of operations at the Cumberland /Lincoln branch, said she enjoys seeing the teens thrive.
“We really enjoy having these kids here,” she said. “Not only is it a helpful for us, but they can gain something by doing this job readiness program. At the end of six weeks, hopefully we will have prepared them well and helped them explore their options for possible careers to give them a feel of what the real world job experience is like.”