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YouthSource helping teens find work in difficult economy

Eighteen-year-old Dante Hennings’ story is not typical of the current trend of teens and jobs, but it shows promise for the future.

The Renton youth has been hired for three jobs recently and has an upcoming interview for a position in Amazon’s fulfillment department. He owes his success to finding and landing the jobs to King County’s YouthSource, located in Renton, he said.

“I thought I would end up working fast food the rest of my life,” Hennings said. “I didn’t think I’d be able to work in bigger companies.”

The teen said he went from applying and never getting jobs to coming to Youth Source, making a resume and getting hired at Carl’s Jr., Old Country Buffet and JC Penney before this latest opportunity.

Completing a resume and preparing for a job search may seem like simple things, but they can be barriers to success for youth in today’s tough job market.

“I think the most common thing that I see is that a lot of the students don’t know how to correctly look for a job,” said Ron DeGuzman, AmeriCorp member.

DeGuzman works out of the Renton YouthSource office, facilitating workshops and helping teens find work. A lot of youth want permanent jobs or summer jobs, but don’t know where to start, he said. Many don’t hear back from employers after approaching them the wrong way and get discouraged from looking for other opportunities.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2012, 58 percent of King County’s population aged 16 to 24 are participating in the labor force and the unemployment rate for ages 16 to 19 is estimated at 26.2 percent and 10.7 percent for ages 20 to 24.

“Surprisingly perhaps, though the economy is definitely improving, teens are not going to work at rates that would indicate an improvement,” said Marlena Sessions in an email. She is the chief executive officer at Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County.

“We believe that this is because of a combination of factors: ‘survival jobs’ went to older and by virtue of being older, more experienced adults in recent years,” she said. “Young people got left behind during the five years of the Great Recession. We are finding as well that young people don’t have ‘job-seeking skills’ and are not sure who is hiring or what jobs they may qualify for. Kids are hesitant to apply now.”

Which is where King County YouthSource and Sessions nonprofit WDC comes in with services for teens.

YouthSource is an alternative high school that pairs education with employment and youth development. The agency works only with youth who have dropped out of school, but its sister organization WorkSource works with anyone seeking a job.

“It is a tough environment to land jobs and kids need to be prepared, so that’s what we do here,” said Michael Davie, program manager.

Davie realizes that teens today are competing against adults who’ve been displaced from other industries and sectors for entry-level jobs.

“I think we do a wonderful job,” he said of their placement services. “We serve about 300 kids a year and our graduation rate is right around 74 percent and our post-placement rate is right around 72 percent.”

WorkSource North Seattle, J.P. Morgan Chase and the Workforce Development Council will offer free career fairs targeting teens this summer, called “Youth at Work Career Fair.” The first event is from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., June 30, at North Seattle College, 9600 College Way N., Seattle. The career fair is for those between ages 16 and 24.

“There are certain entry-level jobs now that 16,17,18, and 19-year-olds are competing for against an older job seeker, who may have more experience,” said Davie. “That’s where preparation and the planning really come in effect.”

For more information about the career fair or for questions, contact pcavanaugh@seakingwdc.org.

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