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PUBLISHED: 5:07 PM on Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Ketchikan youth work program brings 56 students
A kick-off meeting for youth interested in the newly developed job readiness initiative nicknamed "The Pipeline" was held Jan. 31, at the Job Center. An amazing number of youth and young adults aged 14-24 showed up, and apparently not just for the free pizza. Fifty-six filled out the application for the newly launched training and mentoring program.

This program, a collaborative effort between Ketchikan Youth Initiatives, the Job Center, Ketchikan Indian Community and UAS-Ketchikan, has come together under the guidance of Jesse Harrington, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer who came from a rural town in New York last August to fill an opening posted by KYI. Providing job readiness training and work experience is the third of three strategies adopted by KYI to carry out their mission that is: "to empower the community by fostering and funding youth and young adult initiatives designed to create a constructive social environment."

"I have had the opportunity to fill a lot of short-term jobs myself and work with youth in jobs where I was a manager," Harrington said. "There is a great opportunity here in Ketchikan to prepare local youth to fill jobs with local employers. I am very pleased with the high degree of interest and support shown by everyone."

The Pipeline provides a four-step process to job readiness. First the potential worker completes an assessment to determine his or her skills and interests. Many have already completed this step as part of programs in the high schools, at KIC, or through the Job Center or UAS-Ketchikan. Then a one week "soft skills" training program, developed and facilitated by Melissa Cruise at the Job Center, orients the workers about work ethics, appropriate attire and behavior, timeliness, how to handle conflicts, and more. The next step matches the worker with an employer who can provide a short-term work experience opportunity and to a mentor available to counsel either worker or employer about issues that may arise during this training period. After a successful journey through the Pipeline the worker is certified "job ready" and steps into gainful employment in our community hopefully in an industry or job type that is aligned with his or her interests.

The Ketchikan Indian Community Employment and Training Program, a long-time provider of job training for all ages, looks to this initiative to "strengthen our common interest to assist young adults on their path to achieving personal, educational and career goals by offering structured employment, job readiness, and employment training opportunities."

"We are really pleased to welcome others to work with us on this community-wide program to fill local jobs with local young people. We are especially excited to have support from the Work Force Investment Act that is providing salary reimbursement for trainees who are 18 and older and meet the WIA eligibility criteria," said Barbara Truitt, job counselor at the Alaska State Department of Labor's Job Center. The Job Center not only has qualified counselors and trainers available but has also made available a space in the First Bank Building labeled "the place" to provide a simulated office environment for practice job interviews as well as a place for the program leaders and volunteers that are supporting this program to convene.

The concept of the Pipeline program was fleshed out in a January community meeting attended by 26 organizations and individuals hosted by KYI and facilitated by Cathy LeCompte of UAS-Ketchikan.

"We need to institute a sense of resiliency in our youth and give them the confidence and the job skills they need to be successful in their work path," LeCompte said. "Our community can do more to provide the basis for vocational education leading to long-term job opportunities in Ketchikan and other parts of Alaska."

For more information, or to volunteer as a mentor or a work experience employer, please contact Jesse Harrington, KYI, youthtowork@gmail.com, 247-8080, Melissa Cruise, Job Center, melissa_cruise@labor.state.ak.us, 228-3237, or Tyla Williams or Lisa Trimmer, KIC, at 228-5150.


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