2016 Highland County Youth Employment Program
We recently spoke with Josh Umar, Youth and Business Resource Coordinator for The Highland Center, about the Youth Employment Program he oversees.
“The Youth Employment Program is something that the Center has been running now for 15 years. 2016 will be the fifteenth anniversary of the program, and we’re really excited. In that time, there’s been 115 students who’ve participated, and they’ve worked 21,675 hours, so they’ve been putting in a lot of time for a lot of years now at a lot of local businesses, non-profits and other organizations, and we’re ready to do 2016, and are really excited about the new year.
“The program is growing at a pretty rapid pace. Last year, we had 14 students in the program (who)worked more than 1,500 hours. This year, we’re on pace for 22 or more. They are good kids – they range in age from 14 – 20. A lot of different experience levels, a lot of different backgrounds, different parts of the county – it’s a mixed program, with a pretty diverse group of young people who are looking for work.”
He stressed the need for more employers, and the benefits they could reap from being part of the program.
“They can do a lot of things, and in fact, a lot more than people realize. In the past, the program has had, and maintains, a strong association with the school, because the school has a work crew that helps during the summer with cleaning and custodial work, but really, the kids can do a lot of different things. Just last year, we had worksites that included several farms, Highland County Chamber of Commerce, public library, Valley Program for Aging Services, Meals on Wheels had a student, the Highland Inn, Allegheny Mountain Radio had one. The young people are interested in working and learning, and they can do a lot of different things if we can find good worksites for them.
“Right now, I have about 14 worksites lined up, but we need more. Part of what I’d say to people is, if you’re someone who thinks that you could use some help at your business or your farm this summer, please reach out to me, because the chances are really good that I can find you the right student to help out.
“You get to set the hours – you get to set the schedule – and it’s a way of investing back in the young people of Highland, and we feel like that’s really important for youth retention and getting people to stay in the county, once they graduate high school. It’s a great program because you’ve got a wide variety of young people, we help pay the wages. The only things we ask out of worksites are that there’s a supervisor on site at all times; we ask that they follow the child labor laws, which, of course, I will be around to guide you through and walk you through, and I will be making regular worksite visits, to help out and support the businesses that take on a youth employment person in any way that I can; and then we also do as part of the program a series of educational sessions, and the only other things we ask of businesses is that they let the students out for those educational sessions, that typically last about 90 minutes.
“So, all told, it’s a pretty good deal – you get these great young people in, and they’re willing to help you, and we help pay their wages while they sort of learn what it means to be an employee. It gives you some opportunities to become a mentor, but it also gives you a great opportunity to audition new hires, so we feel like it’s a big service that we give to businesses, and I really hope that a few businesses will contact me after hearing this and take me up on the opportunity. If you’re thinking of hiring someone, and you’d like to audition some people through Youth Employment, contact me at the Center, 468-1922; they can also get me on e-mail, email@example.com, and I’m also on Facebook, I’m easy to find online, so if you do have questions about the program, or are interested in getting a Youth Employment participant at your worksite this summer, let me know.”