Employment training for youth

Spring break is upon us. Across the country, students and families have a chance to reconnect and relax. Youth get an opportunity to take a break from studying and the pressures of strict routine. Sleeping late and staying up late, going to the refrigerator anytime during the day, and hanging out with friends are all benefits school vacation provides.

Spring break is also a time for students to think about summer break. Ranking fifth in child poverty, Hawaii families cannot afford to send their children and young adults to camp or expensive educational and cultural programs. Hundreds of families on Kauai could benefit from additional income no matter how small.

At Hale ‘Opio Kauai, Peggy Granda, director of First Jobs Academy, builds opportunities for youth employment.

Peggy: Hale ‘Opio Kauai provides a program called First Jobs Academy. It is targeted to the 16-to-24-year-old population. Top priority is given to foster youth, youth with mental health or juvenile justice involvement and other youth in the community who need services. Referrals are received from parents and youth directly, school counselors, teachers, court personnel, child welfare workers, and other agencies.

Not only do we train the youth in work readiness skills but we also develop business mentors for the program. Businesses that are willing to complete our enhanced management training in order to learn and develop skills in how to better work with youth and recognize the youth’s learning style is also a component of the First Jobs Academy.

To have youth trained in financial literacy, work readiness, team work and healthy living and who are excited to work and match them with an island-wide cohort of trained employers is our goal.

I’ve been training life skills to youth for over 20 years, 15 of them on Kauai. This work is important to me because I was one of those kids who was lucky enough to have a mentor who believed in me and helped me find and develop my strengths.

At First Jobs Academy, we use a Hawaii-based curriculum, Kahua Waiwai, that ties the wisdom of kapuna to successful living. Taylor Shigemoto from KCFCU supplements our financial literacy class. Learning about banking, savings accounts, loans and interest and avoiding financial pitfalls with credit cards are some of the subjects discussed.

Our Work Readiness class develops skills in how to write resumes, practice effective interviews and dress appropriately when meeting employers. Team Work entails activities that simulate work teams and instills interpersonal relationship skills. For our Healthy Me! class we have a nutritionist from Hoola Lahui Hawaii come in to prepare healthy meals with the students.

Incentives are built into First Jobs Academy: $125 is given to each participant, both the individual youth and business entity who complete the program. Wyndham Vacation Ownership, one of our business partners, provides mock interviews with the students and takes a personal interest in their development.

They and McDonald’s, another business partner to First Jobs Academy, have both generously returned the incentive money back to the program. Wyndham has also treated First Jobs Academy’s participants to a Smith’s luau.

I’ve found that our businesses on Kauai want to help youth develop and find employment but don’t know what to do. First Jobs Academy gives them a concrete way to give someone a hand up.

Feedback from students who have completed the program has been wonderful. A young woman who is now a community program assistant told me she never realized how important preparation and confidence were to obtaining employment, skills she credited to learning in First Jobs Academy. Another student who graduated while still in high school and got a part-time job in retail clothing, now works full time and is a manager for the store and just applied for the Wai ‘ale ‘ale Project to attend KCC.

Our next class begins April 4 at the Kapaa Neighborhood Center and meets Tuesday and Thursday for eight weeks from 2:45 to 4:45 pm. Please call me, Peggy Granda or Patricia Duh at Hale Opio Kauai at 245-2873 to sign up.

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Questions?

Hale `Opio Kaua’i convened a support group of adults in our Kaua’i community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Esther Solomon at esolomon@haleopio.org For more information about Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i, please go to www.haleopio.org

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