Youth Employment Program off to great start

Now that school is back in session, leaders of our Hamilton County Youth Employment Program (YEP) can take a look back at just how much good they did for young people this summer.

They have quite a bit to brag about – they connected 930 teens and young adults with jobs, surpassing their goal of 850. The jobs paid $13 an hour, totaling more than $1.9 million paid out between April and now. That’s nice money for participants’ bank accounts, but also a lot of financial support spread throughout the community.

The program continues to engage the youth year-round, but this summer delivered a great start. And there’s more:

  • 156 students earned credentials for skills like construction and cosmetology;
  • 137 learned CPR;
  • Some chose tech “earn and learn” opportunities, which taught them about coding, graphic design and drone flying, among other cool things.

“Our goal was to do more and to do better,” said Sarah Gray, JFS Youth Services Manager. “What we had been doing for years wasn’t working as well as we wanted it to. We had to take note of what the kids actually need and develop programs that target those things.”

More than 200 businesses, most of them small, benefited from hiring YEP members.

The HCYE Tech program, run on a contract by Talbert House, also taught students to be mindful of their health, with classes on meditation and brain foods. Students were required to wear suits one day a week so they became comfortable wearing work-appropriate clothes. Seventeen students graduated from this program, which gives them up to 12 high school credits. A second vendor, Harbor, taught resume writing and helped students overcome transportation issues to get to their jobs.

A new media and entrepreneurship program, suggested by Commissioner Alicia Reece, offered students a chance to learn about public speaking, doing podcasts and using their voices to advocate. Coming this fall: starting a business and setting up an LLC.

“They’ve done a really good job of enhancing their programs to fit with what we want,” Gray said. “These programs blew me away this summer.”

The YEP is open to young people 14 to 21 whose family income falls below 200% of the federal poverty level or who have other barriers to successful employment. More than 1,300 total kids signed up. The goal is to keep them involved for a year and give them every skill possible in that time period. Students can re-enroll, but the aim is to serve new youth each year.

“We do it all,” Gray said. “And if we don’t yet, it’s coming.”




by Jane Prendergast

Filed Under: News