Summer internship program leads to employment for teens placed by JF&CS

In addition to taking classes at the Community College of Allegheny County this fall, Akiba Washington, a recent graduate of Taylor Allderdice High School, will be adding a part-time job at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Squirrel Hill to her schedule. Through the help of JF&CS’s participation in the Pittsburgh Summer Youth Employment Program (PSYEP), 18-year-old Akiba was placed as an intern at the JCC’s Early Childhood Development Center, and her supervisors were so impressed with her work ethic, she was offered continued employment as a childcare worker in the fall.

Benefiting teens and young adults between the ages 14 – 21, the Pittsburgh Summer Youth Employment Program, a program of the Pittsburgh Partnership, chooses several area agencies to match at-risk, low-income and refugee youth from neighborhoods throughout Pittsburgh with paid internship opportunities at community organizations for six weeks during the summer. The program helps teens and young adults gain valuable skills to prepare them for joining the workforce or continuing their education after high school, and for many of the participants, this internship is their first experience in the workforce.

Akiba Washington at her internship at the Jewish Community Center.

Jeanne Williams, career and employment counselor at JF&CS’s Career Development Center coordinates the program.

“This program is a wonderful opportunity and preventative tool for youth throughout our communities,” she said, “It’s allowing teens and young adults to access opportunities they would not have been able to otherwise, so hopefully they will not fall into at-risk situations into the future.”

For more than five years, JF&CS has partnered with local employers to provide young adults with opportunities to experience the human service and business aspects of local agencies first-hand, helping motivated youth take the first steps toward building their careers and futures in our region. This summer, JF&CS placed 18 interns at six sites, including the JCC, the Jewish Association on Aging, Riverview Towers, Kingsley Association, Off the Floor Pittsburgh and the YWCA.

In addition to learning job-readiness skills like responsibility and presentation skills prior to starting their internships, the teens and young adults were mentored along the way to ensure continued success throughout the program. They received guidance on taking initiative, following direction and respecting supervisors, clients and people from various cultures, races and religions.

“This year, 100 percent of our interns finished their assignments,” Jeanne said. “This group is the best I’ve ever worked with. Both the youth and our employers were so engaged, and it has made a huge difference in the success of this year’s program.”

Throughout her internship at the JCC, Akiba supervised children, planned and engaged in age-appropriate activities and provided general childcare services for three-year-olds at the Early Childhood Development Center. As an aspiring OB/GYN, the placement turned out to be a natural fit, and is helping Akiba prepare for her future.

“I’m getting familiar with young kids, and I think that will be helpful when I’m working with pregnant women,” she said.

As the internships come to an end this week, all of the interns placed at the JCC have all been offered an opportunity to stay as employees or return as an intern next year, and supervisor feedback at all sites has been extremely positive.

Akiba encourages her peers to consider following in her footsteps.

“If I wasn’t working here, I would still be looking for a job anywhere that would hire me. Apply to PSYEP,” she said. “If you do what you’re supposed to do, you might be able to keep the job.”

Additionally, JF&CS is committed to providing programs and services for at-risk young adults in our communities, most notably through Age Up, Not Out (AUNO), a unique partnership between the Career Development Center and YouthWorks. AUNO serves young adults between the ages of 18-24 who no longer qualify for the foster care system and are considered at-risk for high rates of unemployment, pregnancy, homelessness, substance abuse, dependence on welfare and involvement in crime. AUNO is a comprehensive approach to helping youth become economically successful and provides participants with job-readiness tools and emotional support to prepare them for life-long employment through providing job-readiness curriculum, workshops on resumes and cover letters, networking, interviewing, money management, job search assistance, vocational job training recommendations, guidance in entrepreneurship and connections to valuable social service support services based on individualized needs.

At JF&CS, we believe that providing quality opportunities and mentoring support for our community’s youth, teens and young adults, with the help of a caring community, is key to helping at-risk populations realize that they can build a better tomorrow. For more information on how you can become involved in helping local youth, contact Jeanne Williams at 412-586-3725 or jwilliams@careerdevelopmentcenter.org.

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