Employers Gear Up to Hire 61 'Digital' Youth
A potentially life-changing experience is in store for 61 youth as the Smart Communities program prepares for its second year of Digital Youth Summer Jobs. It will be the first paid job experience for many of the youth, and in almost every case their daily tasks will involve computers, databases, social media or multimedia technologies.
Employers were briefed in early June on how the Digital Youth Summer Jobs program will work.
Students will work 20 hours a week at one of 25 participating employers, including community and church organizations, two companies that refurbish computers, and entertainment and branding firms. They will earn a stipend of $1,600 over the eight-week program and, on completion of all requirements, will earn a MacBook computer.
At Integrity Electronics Recyclers in Auburn Gresham, participating youth will learn how to disassemble computers, wipe old data from hard drives, install drivers and load software. “The cool part is that the students will be learning and making decisions on their own,” said Josh Pierce, a 20-year-old college student who will supervise the youth.
Nine youth from Pilsen will design and paint a mural on the viaduct along 16th Street west of Halsted, under the direction of lead artist Jesus “Chucho” Rodriguez. The students will document the entire process with writing, photos and video, said Vanessa Sanchez, director of the Yollocalli Arts Reach program of the National Museum of Mexican Art. Other Pilsen students will work for Instituto del Progreso Latino, The Resurrection Project and the Poder Learning Center.
Students from across the city will work with cancer biologist Dr. Victoria Liu at Columbia College Chicago, assisting with research and producing presentations and animations. Youth Technology Corps will employ five students at a workshop in Sherman Park, where they will refurbish computers that will then be donated for community uses.
Other employers will put students to work on advertising, promotion, social marketing and database-management jobs – all skills that will come in handy on future jobs. The intern at Greater Southwest Development Corporation, for instance, will help market summer trolley tours and learn to use the graphic-design software called Quark.
The program includes a mandatory life-skills training class every Friday and emphasizes strict rules and consistent expectations so that all students get a real-life job experience, said Theresa Prim, who ran an orientation for employers. Participating youth must adhere to a dress code set by the employer, show up on time and be respectful to customers and co-workers. Use of drugs or alcohol will not be tolerated.
“You need a dedicated supervisor for the youth” and a steady flow of meaningful work, Prim said, “because one thing you don’t want is a 14- to 17-year-old with an idle mind.” She recommends that employers set and enforce a firm policy on cell phone use, such as keeping it in a purse or pocket except during break times.
Prim said some youth have been terminated in past years because they violated rules or didn’t show up for work, and she urged employers to quickly respond to lack of performance by the students.
“But we have had wonderful, wonderful stories of success,” said Prim, including many subsequent placements in permanent jobs, college scholarships, students returning for a second summer, and even a few cases where students continued working as unpaid interns because they liked the work so much. “The positive experiences far outweigh any negatives,” she said.
The program is funded by the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. Partner agencies in each community take care of paperwork and payroll and help with recruitment of youth. Partners are Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corp. (Auburn Gresham); Greater Southwest Development Corp. (Chicago Lawn); Beloved Community Family Services (Englewood); BUILD (Humboldt Park); and Yollocalli Arts Reach (Pilsen).
See more photos of the employer briefing on our Flickr page.
Posted in Smart Communities News