Teens Gain Work Experience with JOBS Program
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Aug 31, 2012, 16:22
The spirit of the Hopewell-Prince George J.O.B.S. program is the feeling you got after receiving that first paycheck made out in your name.
That feeling is how the program’s co-founder John Weigel described it at the graduation ceremony for the class of 2012 on Wednesday night.
J.O.B.S. stands for job opportunity basic skills, which is what the program endeavors to create amongst its young participants.
Weigel, who retired from the Juvenile Justice Department of Court Services earlier this year, said the idea to create a program that would help young people learn the skills necessary to get jobs came about in 2005 while he was sitting in his office with his then secretary, Jenny Wells, and J.O.B.S. co-founder Dr. Terrence Allen.
“What dawned on me in our discussion was my father’s generation, the World War II generation, they didn’t have the word adolescent,” he said, noting that most people went to work as soon as they finished school.
That generation, Weigel said, was called “the greatest generation.”
“It dawned on me, and on Jenny and Terrence, that if we could give 14 year olds the experience of working, we could be creating another great generation,” he said.
Terrence Allen said that they wanted to do something that would positively effect the lives of local youths and discussed what that might be.
“We thought what better to do than create a program to help them develop skills they can use not only right now, but in the future,” he said.
Program participants take after school classes one night a week for 15 weeks to learn the skills needed to secure jobs. The classes cover topics such as communication skills, time management, appearance, health tips and interviewing skills, explained current Program Director Sharon Jordnak.
After teaching students the skills they need to enter the workforce, the program connects them with summer internships with 17 different local employers.
The program started small, with just 10 students from the Hopewell Boys and Girls Club. Then, in 2007, The Hopewell-Prince George Chamber of Commerce got involved.
“The biggest growth came when the Chamber of Commerce got on board,” Allen said.
On Thursday, 44 students from Hopewell and Prince George celebrated a summer spent working with businesses and organizations ranging from the florist Anything Grows to Brighter Living Assisted Living to Morgan’s Hair Studio to Evonik Goldschmidt to the public school systems and local governments in their home towns.
Students and parents gathered in the Auditorium of the Hopewell Lofts for snacks and speeches, including an address from John Zaudtke, formerly of Snagajob.
Zaudtke told the students, most of them in eighth or ninth grade, that what employers are looking for, more than anything else, are employees with good character.
“The choices you make in life that determine who you are will effect future employers,” he said.
He shared examples of mistakes from his own life and how he handled them, and learned from those experiences.
“You have two options in life,” he said. “You can lead a life of selfishness or selflessness. I strongly encourage you to walk through door two as it will give you that great character companies are looking for.”
Pamela Allen, Human Resources Manager with Sabra Dipping Company, also addressed the students, focusing on responsibility.
“I am responsible for everything that I think, everything that I say and everything that I do,” she said, asking the students to repeat after her.
Becky McDonough, Executive Vice President of the Hopewell-Prince George Chamber of Commerce, said that the evaluations she had seen from employers indicated that the students had done well in their summer positions, indicating that they would have references for future jobs.
When the students trotted across the stage, they were each given a shirt, designed by Kevin Gaines, an N.B. Clements student who wants to be a commercial artist and spent the summer working at Celebri-Tees.
At the end of the evening, as the students signed each others shirts, Sarah Post said she learned a lot from her summer experience as a clerical assistant for Smart Beginnings.
“I’m so happy that I went with this,” she said.
She said that the importance of making eye contact and using the proper handshake were two of the most important lessons she learned, along with ways to address conflict in the work space.
“I think every kid should do it,” she said of the program.
Donald Shipp spent his summer working at the Fairfield Inn and Suites as a front desk clerk.
“You need to be very good with people, now matter what you job is,” he said, summarizing what he had learned.
He also learned how to present and carry himself in a professional manner he said.
“There’s a lot to learn from it,” he said of the program.