Summer Success: Teen Mentorship and Job Training

with Terri Fishback of Boys & Girls Clubs of America

Summer employment provides teens the opportunity to gain valuable workplace skills and developmental experiences in preparation for future careers. Terri Fishback of Boys & Girls Clubs of America discusses workforce readiness and career planning for teens.

Posted on:

Jun 28, 2019

Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: According to the US Department of Labor, more than 20 million young people, ages 16 to 24, were employed from April through July of 2018. Summer jobs offer a paycheck, employment experience, and an opportunity to develop job skills, preparing youth for future employment. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Studies project a shortfall of qualified workers in the near future, so more attention is being placed on workforce readiness in the United States. And joining me to talk about that is Terri Fishback. She is the Senior Director of Youth Development for the Boys & Girls Club of America. Terri, I want to start with the sort of big picture here. Where are some of the experiences -- the employment experiences -- that these kids are getting in various industries, trades, and other professional settings?

Fishback: Yeah. Most young people are looking for your typical job like when we were kids, right? And so they're looking for your retail jobs, working at the mall, becoming a lifeguard for a summer. And so there's a variety of opportunities that are available for these young people. What I think sometimes young people don't realize is that if they were to go into a skill or a trade, that they would have even more opportunities to earn an income. So there are pretty much a lot of jobs out there for young people these days.

Anderson: So it's not just lifeguarding. They're actually learning some skills here, right?

Fishback: Absolutely. They're learning skills.] And at Boys & Girls Clubs, we really dive into skill development as early as 6 years old, and really ensuring that young people know these skills that are so valued for employers today, like effective communication or problem-solving, critical thinking. So, Boys & Girls Clubs really play a role in that.

Anderson: So, you have a very specific program. It's called This Way Ahead. How does that work?

Fishback: Yeah, so, This Way Ahead is an opportunity for young people to land their first job. What it does provide is an opportunity for job training through a 12-week program. We also provide mentorship when that young person does get hired. And so they are successful on the job, we provide that mentorship after, through a job coach at the Boys & Girls Clubs. So it really is an opportunity to have a permanent or seasonal employment with our partnership with Gap Inc. That allows them to land their very first job.

Anderson: And you hit on it a little bit earlier, but I want to go back to it, 'cause it's such an important point. We're not talking about engaging kids at a specific point in their lives. This is a whole holistic approach. Can you talk about that?

Fishback: Yeah, so, the trajectory looks different at every age group, right? There are activities that we use at the Boys & Girls Clubs to engage young people in skill development. So, if you're 6 to 8 years old, we're talking about, what does it mean to be a fireman, right? What does it mean to drop the mail off, right? And so also developmentally, for those young people that become 13, 14, 15 years old, we're really honing in on, "What does it mean to develop a résumé? What does it mean to craft a cover letter? What does it mean to have employer expectations?" So, really making sure that young people are developmentally prepared to take on whatever it is for future careers or first-job experience.

Anderson: So, this isn't just about the future. This is also about sort of refocusing kids during a time in their life where they could very well get off track. I mean, we talked earlier about the whole risky-behavior aspect when children don't have something to do. Explain how this is sort of a alleviating that.

Fishback: Yeah, so, Boys & Girls Clubs is a positive, safe place for young people] to come to after school and during summer hours. And we know that having a positive place to go or something to do that's constructive after school hours is really important for you to stay away from some of those risky behaviors, like drugs or drinking. And so, really, what we're looking to do at Boys & Girls Clubs is, yes, help them to be work- and life-ready, but really support them with a caring adult relationship that also lets them know that we're there for them and that they can come to us, and we can help them become great.

Anderson: So, this is all happening, of course, at a national level, but you guys do different things in different states, according to what's going on in that community or with a certain group of people. You talked about a project I believe was in Minnesota that was fascinating.

Fishback: Yes, so, in Minnesota, there is a job-ready program that is happening with that Boys & Girls Club, where they are helping young people, again, with job-training opportunities, skill development, the opportunity to get some job training, in terms of certifications and credentials, so that they do have the opportunities to go out for some of the jobs for their future, not just the lifeguard jobs, right? And so we really want to make sure that young people have the opportunities, no matter their route that they choose. So, whether they're going to a four-year degree in college, a two-year trade school, we want to make sure that we're setting them up to be successful in whatever route that they choose.

Anderson: Success is certainly crucial for young people, and to know that they can achieve it, absolutely is absolutely crucial. What are you guys doing differently? Or what are the things that you're doing, coming up in the future? I mean, you've got this great program here, but what are some of the things that you're missing?

Fishback: Yeah, so, what I think helps us to be more unique, [00:05:21.08] I'll say, in terms of Boys & Girls Clubs, is that we are starting very young with young people in saying, "What do you want to do? How can we support you in life?" We're taking the opportunity, when they walk into our doors, 6, 7, 8 years old, and saying, "Hey, we are here for you, and we are here to help your dreams become reality and to fulfill your full potential." And so we can start that early. And a young person that stays with us over the course of time, through their club experience, is more likely then to be successful once they leave our doors, when they turn 18 years old. So it's really a positive experience that we provide for them throughout their club experience.

Anderson: We know support is crucial. Terri Fishback, thank you so much.

Fishback: Thank you.

Anderson: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, visit I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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