FORT LEE, Va. (July 9, 2009) – For some Fort Lee teens, typical summer activities have taken a backseat to more mature endeavors.
Twenty-three youths between the ages of 15 - 18 are gaining work experience and earning money with the new hired! apprenticeship program offered by Child, Youth and School Services.
Margie Lindsey, workforce preparation specialist at the Fort Lee Youth Center, manages the hired! program and headed to Prince George High School during the final week of classes to pitch the program to the students. She set up a table in the cafeteria during lunches and quickly gained the support of teachers.
“We’ve had an almost overwhelming response,” Lindsey said. “Word spread like wildfire.”
The apprenticeships begin with candidates taking a series of classes designed to help them prepare for real-world employment. The six workshops include topics such as workforce preparation, career exploration and financial management workshops.
The hired! program consists of 12-week apprenticeships at Fort Lee Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities. Teens of active duty military and Department of Defense Civilians are eligible for the program provided they maintain a 2.0 or better grade point average and take the required workshops.
Apprentices are required to work 15 hours a week for each apprenticeship. During the summer teens can choose to work two apprenticeships. More than half participants chose to work two apprenticeships.
“The object of the program is to prepare participants to go into the workforce,” Lindsey said. “We want to teach them the skills they will be using for their careers. We do a career assessment and a hobbies, skills and interest inventory as well. We match those together so they are working at something they will do in future careers.”
Lindsey said the apprenticeships are not designed to be busy work or just a summer position.
“It is meant to be a viable experience in the workforce,” Lindsey said.
In addition to learning valuable skills and lessons, and sampling career fields, the teens earn a cash award for each apprenticeship they work when the term ends. The cash award for the first and second terms the student works is $500. Students who return for subsequent apprenticeships will earn $625 for their third and fourth terms and $700 for their fifth and sixth terms. Teens are permitted to work up to two terms per year for up to three consecutive years as long as they remain eligible for the program.
The Boys and Girls Club of America, through a partnership with AmeriCorps, provides educational awards to club members ages 17 and 18 and alumni ages 19 - 24 who serve their communities and Clubs. CLUBService recognizes young people’s service and helps them access higher education opportunities. Members must earn at least 900 hours of CLUBService hours to be eligible. Each term earns the apprentices 180 hours toward their CLUBService goal.
Victoria Bradley, who will celebrate her 16th birthday later this month, works as an apprentice at FMWR’s Picture Perfect Frame Shop. She said she’s quickly learned to perform most of the tasks associated with her position.
“It isn’t a hard position, so I’ve been given plenty of opportunities to work on projects,” Bradley said. She’s learned to operate the frame, matte, glass and foam cutting machines and has assembled custom frame jobs as well as some to sell in the shop.
Darrien Johnson, who is also on the verge of his 16th birthday, works at FMWR’s Information, Tickets and Travel office. Johnson is learning there is a lot more to travel arrangements than issuing tickets. He’s studied the different policies about non-refundable and other restrictive tickets.
“I think this is a good program with benefits that I haven’t gotten while volunteering,” Johnson said. “My goal is to become a better listener and learn how to improve myself,” he said. “I hope to become a better member of the workforce.
Lindsey hopes to expand the program to include offices and facilities outside of the FMWR. The hired! program was first introduced on installations in Europe and is now active on 47 installations. The next term begins Sept. 21. The first workshop required to begin the program is offered on July 21.