WorkNet to employ youths despite funds

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Established in 1983, The Employment & Economic Development has played a key role in providing the economically disadvantaged and at-risk youth with a job San Joaquin Valley.

Programs for job seeking individuals are provided under the Workforce Innovation & Opportunities Act.

“There’s three grants,” said John Solis, Executive Director of San Joaquin WorkNet, “One for adults (the economically disadvantaged), one for dislocated workers that need help relocating to a new job, then we have the youth grant, focusing on the youth between the ages of 14 and 24.”

However, minors are less likely to be hired than those that are 18 and over. According to Solis, this is due to all of the extra baggage that comes along with hiring minors, such as workers comp, liability, child-labor laws, etc.

Nevertheless, companies like WorkNet prepare the city’s youth for when the opportunity to work comes.

A year-round program provides youth with work experience while they are going to school, giving them around 10-12 hours a week.

And once school ends and summer approaches, work hours for the youth is increased up to 30+ hours a week.

Through San Joaquin Delta College’s partnership with WorkNet, the two also prepare tomorrow’s workers with the Summer Readiness Program, here on campus.

“What we did,” Solis said, “is Delta provided these kids with the academics and they were enrolled by EOPS and also got priority registration for the fall semester, after working in the Summer Readiness Program.”

The condition, according to Solis, is that the kids have to take around 12-18 units to take be enrolled in the fall.

More than fifty percent of high school graduates have never worked in their life, according to Solis.

“One of the things we recognize is that there is a need to really develop the opportunities for youth,” Solis said, “because first and foremost, we need to prepare tomorrow’s workforce.

And the only way that’s going to happen is if we create these employment opportunities for high school kids.”

One of the ways WorkNet prepares tomorrow’s workforce is by holding workshops where those attending learn the essentials to being a good worker.

“What we do is we try and give them a comprehensive orientation to work; we call it the ‘Job Preparedness Workshop.’”

In this three and a half hour forum, those who attend the workshops are taught various useful subjects such as how to make a resume, how to prepare for an interview, how to keep a job and more.

WorkNet receives funding from various organizations in the City of Stockton.

“The city of Stockton gave us 100,000 dollars the first year and allowed us to serve about 35 kids, because wages are expensive. Last year, (the second year) they doubled it.

They gave us 200,000 because they had some savings from their budget.”

This additional raise funding allowed WorkNet around 81 kids, some of which moved on to the Summer Jobs Program.

This year, WorkNet received 200,000 from organizations like CalWORKs and the police department, district attorney’s office, allowing WorkNet to serve up to 78 kids this year.

However, according to Solis, the funding WorkNet will be receiving this year isn’t as much as the previous two, which can be problematic.

“Unfortunately, this year (the third year), the City of Stockton didn’t have any additional money, so they gave us the hundred-thousand dollars plus we got to hang on to the 18,000 bucks we had left over.”

The amount of kids they will serve this year will be less due to this shortage of funds.

“We were aiming for 31,” said Employment Preparation Division Manager, Elena Mangahas, “but because of the way we conduct the program, we could hit for 50 or over.”

With less kids being served this summer, more are at risk of getting into trouble.

“Not having that funding will lessen the number of kids we could serve and get them off the streets and active during the summer time,” said Dianna Ridge, Employment Program Representative, “because an idle mind causes trouble and working will keep them busy.”

One of the kids attending workshops at WorkNet is Joseph Cisneros, who’s been attending workshops since last summer.

“The program helped me because if I didn’t have a job, I know I would’ve been out in the streets. It also helped me because it gave me work experience and kept me out of trouble.”

Though the money WorkNet is receiving is less than previous years, their efforts to keep the youth off the streets and prepare them for the future.

One can attend WorkNet’s Youth Job Preparedness Workshop being held on Feb. 16, from 3:00pm-5:00pm, on 56 S. Lincoln Street.

“Any youth that is interested and wants to work, can come to our office and we’ll find them a job,” Solis said.