Program introduces youth to workforce
Since the 1960s, the Choctaw Nation has worked to provide employment and job training experiences to its younger generation by participating in the Tribal Youth and Supplemental Youth Work Experience Programs (formerly called Summer Youth Program).
A component of the Workforce Investment Act, the Supplemental Youth Work Experience Program is a federally funded program, which is supplemented by tribal dollars for the Tribal Youth Program, that provides entry-level work for Native American teens between the ages of 14-21.
The programs are a win-win for both the youth participants and the employers who hire them. “This introduces the kids to the workforce,” says Patty Mink, director over the programs, “and the employers are not out any money to take on them on because we pay their wages.”
The teens participating in the programs are allowed to work up to 40 hours per week during the five-week summer programs at a job of their choosing. “They job shadow at different businesses,” says Mink, “and it can be any type of business, public, government, nonprofit – we let them choose. We try to get the kids to do something that they enjoy or that they think they may want to do later on in life and get a feel for it. “If they feel they want to get into childcare then they could go to work at a day care for this time period and see if that’s what they think they want to do,” she continued. “Maybe if they are interested in cosmetology then they could work at a beauty shop, or they could try a clinic if they are thinking about the medical field. The list can go on and on. The kids pick their own places of employment.” This allows the teens to be exposed to a particular career field and get a feeling for what it entails. It also helps them to build a resume and work history, making them more competitive in the job market, which can be a confidence boost to the young workers. The CNO kicked off the work programs on June 10 and it runs through July 12. The size of the programs has grown year to year, with approximately 1,700 workers participating this year, about a hundred more than in 2012. To be involved in the programs the youth must have their tribal membership and/or CDIB card, live in the 10 1/2 county tribal area, and meet certain age and income requirements. For more information on the Tribal Youth or Supplemental Youth Work Experience Programs contact 800-522-6170. Applications for next year will be available from Jan. 1 until April 15.