News and Tribune

July 12, 2013

Not yet on the clock: Teens gain work experience through volunteer program

By DANIEL SUDDEATH
daniel.suddeath@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY —

Get a job. 

That’s not an uncommon demand placed on teenagers, but programs that teach youths basic work skills can sometimes be hard to find. 

An exception is the New Albany Parks Department’s inaugural Teen Work Experience program, which wrapped up Thursday, leaving organizers satisfied that participants have the training they need to secure a job. 

“We’re really thrilled with the response we’ve had from teens,” said Kathy Wilkerson, interim director of the city parks department. “We’ve taught them what a real job entails.” 

An added bonus: Teens in the program could be considered for future parks department jobs.

“They’re going to be higher up on the priority list because they’ve been through this training,” Wilkerson said.

From filling out a job application to sharpening social skills needed in a work environment, participants gained knowledge about a wide range of employment standards and qualifications.

The sessions quickly grew in popularity. Ten teenagers showed up in June for the free program, but the number more than tripled this month to 32. 

Ryan Burns, a teacher with the program, held classes covering topics such as work ethics and teamwork. 

“This being a pilot program, I think it’s been very successful,” he said. “I think they’ve already learned quite a bit.” 

Most of the teens that went through the training attend either Christian Academy or New Albany High School.

Christian Academy student Kiersten Carruthers, 17, completed the program along with several of her soccer teammates. 

She said the teamwork drills during Teen Work Experience will be beneficial on the soccer pitch as well as when seeking jobs. 

There’s also some unique aspects of the program compared to the typical school setting, Carruthers said. 

“It’s more hands-on, which is better,” she said. 

The initiative was designed for teenagers between 15 and 17 years old. Wilkerson said that’s the age group that usually struggles to find jobs due to a lack of experience. But experience is exactly what the area high students got through the program.

Following instructional sessions in the mornings, participants were assigned to different city parks centers where they helped supervise and teach younger kids. 

“On-the-job training is so important,” Wilkerson said.  

NAHS student Mikayla Moore, age 17, already has a job at Taco Bell. But her time with Teen Work Experience has opened up more possibilities. 

She especially took interest in helping teach and supervise youth parks programs. 

“I love working with little kids. It has been a neat experience,” she said. 

Participants of the program met with Mayor Jeff Gahan in his office Thursday, where they were presented with certificates of achievement. 

The teens weren’t paid for their time, but Wilkerson believes the experience will pay off down the road. 

“Just to see the smiles on those kids faces. They’ve asked so many questions during the last two months,” she said, adding that Teen Work Experience will return again next summer. 

“It’s been a very successful program.”