Building a sturdy springboard for young job seekers
Poised to begin a fifth decade in May, Roseburg-based Umpqua Training & Employment continues to fulfill its original mission of connecting workers to jobs.
It’s a three-pronged focus. UT&E assists transitional workers who have left an industry and are seeking a fresh start; adults who generally find it tough to match up with an employer; and young job seekers, described by UT&E as “emerging workers.”
In the last category, troubling trends have made for some challenges in recent years, according to UT&E President Susan Buell. Unemployment rates have improved in Douglas County since spiking into double digits in 2008, but remain high. One consequence is that positions that used to be regarded as first-time jobs for workers ages 16 to 24 are now held by adults 25 and older, Buell said. Recent surveys by UT&E of area residents ages 18 to 24 showed that hundreds had registered for work but had limited work history and skills, and hundreds more had not even bothered to register. In addition, these young people were unconnected to a school, training programs or other forms of post-secondary education.
Making inroads on that bleak statistic is a priority for Buell. “That’s our next work force,” she said. “As this economy improves, the next piece of it is how you apply for jobs, and, you have to teach young people to do that on their own,” she said. “It’s a statewide goal we’re working toward, creating work-ready communities.”
UT&E does this in numerous ways, several of which are listed on the agency’s website at ute1stop.org. One effort that benefits students in multiple ways is a pilot project UT&E has launched at Dillard Alternative High School and plans to expand to other rural Douglas County schools. The program provides 65 hours of training linking several components that can help students to identify their skills and goals for post-graduate work or training. It also provides them with a road map for how to get there.
One of those components is the National Career Readiness Certificate, which measures essential workplace skills and can be presented to potential employers. UT&E uses the NCRC assessment to help students interpret the information and evaluate whether their skills can be matched to job and training opportunities in Douglas County.
The assessment and training allow students to come away with a document that connects them with at least one of the following – Oregon labor market information, sector strategies and career pathways. Buell said in Douglas County, sector strategies reflect the high-growth, high-demand occupations found in three categories: health care, advanced manufacturing and transportation. Career pathways refer to a series of educational programs and services that enable students, often while they are working, to prepare to advance to the next level of employment and education.
The pilot project also guides students in creating an electronic portfolio that allows them to store documents such as diplomas, certificates, credentials and resumes that can be shared with employers or institutions. Upon successful completion of the pilot project, youth compete for paid work experience opportunities at businesses. They also receive half a credit to apply to high school graduation.
Buell said previous summer youth programs served over 400 youth in either training or paid work experiences. More than half of them shared their earnings with their families.
She added that UT&E is involved with Douglas County Partners for Student Success because of shared goals that are vital to the economic well-being of the community.
“Our main interest along with our partners is in seeing graduation rates improve, with kids ready for training or employment,” Buell said. “There are all sorts of interesting careers and jobs available, but kids don’t know about them. Our goal is to provide opportunities for them to explore careers and experience work.”
She also said she is grateful to the many Douglas County businesses willing to help UT&E improve the prospects of youth who turn to the agency for help in taking those next steps.
“We want to teach them to be their own advocate,” she said.