Now in its seventh year, Workforce Lab continues to prepare young high schoolers who live in the Parker Street neighborhood for life beyond high school as they enter the workforce. Primarily a financial capability program, Workforce Lab teaches soft job skills in an environment that is shaped by the Gospel.
This summer, 12 students participated in experiential learning through:
- opening their own bank accounts and making deposits
- earning stipends and possibly losing stipends for infractions
- completing a financial fitness bootcamp
- creating resumes for themselves and practicing interview skills through mock interviews
- exploring different career options
- volunteering at local nonprofits
- participating in a pregnancy prevention workshop
Financial capability education continues to be a major component of Workforce Lab. Led this year by former PSM COO, Kim Schell, participants completed a financial fitness bootcamp covering a variety of topics with a focus on consumer finance. Students learned how social media impacts buying decisions and how these nudges influence unwise purchases.
They also discussed the intersection of health and work performance. “Poor health choices now lead to chronic conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes),” says Schell. “These affect ability, absenteeism, and mortality.”
Covering real-world situations, Workforce Lab teens were taught the dos and don’ts of buying a car. And they even completed a simulation about college financing and how education choices now impact college options and impact future wages.
To support these lessons, participants heard from community speakers throughout the summer who provided their Christian testimony, spiritual discipline practices, and personal stories of trusting God with their finances.
Participants earned actual paychecks this summer in the form of stipends with the goal of helping students learn about saving and developing the habit of saving now before they officially enter the workforce. Teaching responsibility, infractions and inappropriate behavior meant they did not receive their full stipends. As a bonus, these stipends will be matched (minimum of 50%) when the students graduate on-time from high school.
Making an Impact
A highlight of the Workforce Lab program is its connection to other local nonprofits. Each week, students traveled around Lakeland to volunteer at organizations such as: Lighthouse Ministries Family Store, The Salvation Army, One More Child, ECHO Ministries Florida, Explorations V Children’s Museum (Florida Children’s Museum), Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE), and Gospel, Inc. Teens participated in a variety of activities from packing food boxes and painting red bell stands for the Christmas season to landscaping and creating colorful butterflies to brighten up someone’s day.
In Their Own Words
Here are a few reflections from these high schoolers:
- “I have grown to be more of a leader and helper.” – D
- “My favorite worksite was One More Child because I know I was helping someone in need.” – K
- Skills to bring to an interview are: “Communication, eye contact, and having everything ready.” – K
- “My favorite afternoon volunteering activity was cooking with the kids.” – Y
- “I have grown so I can work better with a team.” – L
- “What stuck with me was how to make better decisions and how to make money last longer.” – D
- “I learned about how to cooperate with everyone. Also, to treat everyone with kindness.” – L
Thank You, Supporters!
Workforce Lab is made possible through the prayers and support of many. The 2022 Summer Workforce Lab Program is funded by: CareerSource Polk, Publix Super Markets Charities, Bank of Central Florida, and the State of Florida. Thank you for supporting these young people and helping them prepare for their bright futures!
Parker Street Ministries (PSM) is a 501c3 nonprofit in Lakeland, Florida that follows a Gospel-centered model characterized by living, listening, affirming dignity, and building community together in and through the Parker Street neighborhood. For more than two decades, PSM’s vision has been to see a city transformed by the power of the Gospel through building champions who make possible desirable neighborhoods, lifetime learners, financial sustainability, and healthy communities for all.