Phoenix teens gaining valuable work experience through AZYouthforce Academy

Phoenix, AZ | Submitted by Josh Stine

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Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix (BGCMP) has 16 locations serving thousands of youth in kindergarten through 12th grade. With programs including arts and academics, healthy lifestyle and character building, they’re also helping youth prepare for the workforce.

The AZYouthforce Academy is a workforce development program aimed at helping teens identify interests and learn how they can create skills for their future. Through unique paid internship opportunities and a personalized plan for success, teens explore a variety of careers and pathways. Teens who participate also learn financial literacy, professional communication and interview skills.

helping youth prepare for the workforceIn order to help these teens prepare for life after graduation, and to provide financial support for their families, BGCMP gets them real world experience. By starting with career exploration and soft skill development, the program ensures their success. BGCMP engages with local business partners, such as Jiffy Lube, Talking Stick Resort Arena and Bank of America. Students are able to go on at least three site visits to learn about career options, including marketing, human resources and warehouse work. Based on their preferences, they interview with a company and get placed in a paid position.

To help ensure their success, AZYouthforce Academy first puts them through a 10-session soft skill academy. Students learn everything from resume writing to phone etiquette. Once they’re placed in a job, the students are matched with a BGCMP team member who keeps them on track and provides support in resolving conflict, arranging transportation and more. Many also receive guidance on opening bank accounts and setting up direct deposit. They’ve even made time to set up college tours and help students complete the FAFSA.

In Arizona, 13 percent of youth ages 16-24 are neither working nor in school. The Arizona Education Progress Meter goal is to bring this down to 7 percent by 2030. AZYouthforce Academy is aiding this by finding youth before they become disconnected and helping them to stay focused and engaged.

So far, the program has engaged 70 (interns) youth with 60 percent Hispanic teens and 90 percent who live below the federal poverty line. There are foster youth, refugees and other groups who benefit from the guidance. They’re getting the opportunity to explore career tracks, grow soft skills and build their network, all while earning much-needed pay. Last summer alone, they earned a collective $80,000 in wages.

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