Sleeping in, beach days, and no school—sounds like a typical summer for most students. But not for PSM’s Young Adult Program (YAP) participants. Sixteen high schoolers who live in the Parker Street neighborhood spent their June and July preparing for their futures through the Summer Workforce Lab Program.
Now in its sixth year, Workforce Lab is primarily a financial capability program for young high schoolers to exercise soft job skills in an environment that is shaped by the Gospel. The goal is to help build a talent pipeline and keep students thriving and consistently preparing for life beyond high school as they enter the workforce.
For eight weeks, students participated in experiential learning through:
- opening their own bank accounts and making deposits.
- creating resumes for themselves and practicing interview skills through mock interviews.
- exploring different career options.
- completing a series of financial fitness boot camps.
- attending etiquette lunches.
- volunteering at local nonprofits.
A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned
In addition, participants earn actual paychecks in the form of stipends. These stipends will be matched up to 85% when the students graduate on-time from high school. The goal is to help students learn about saving and develop the habit of saving now before they officially enter the workforce. These young people also learn about responsibility. Infractions and inappropriate behavior means they may not get their full stipends.
Connecting with and volunteering at many local nonprofit organizations is a huge part of Workforce Lab. From painting to packing boxes, these on-the-job training skills are critical for youth today. Here are a few reflections from these high schoolers:
- One participant says volunteering at The Salvation Army “was my absolute favorite thing to do. I’m a master painter.” – N.
- Another said they enjoyed their time at Explorations V Children’s Museum “because I helped kids discover new things.” – J.
- Others said they enjoyed helping the elderly at VISTE by packing boxes. “I liked everything about it.” – S.
“I think my biggest takeaway this summer is the fact that we (adults) tend to underestimate teens. They always amaze me with their intelligence and capabilities,” says Trish Hogan, Workforce Lab leader. “We were at a work site and the kids were given the task to break into pairs and come up with activities to lead the next day. I was mentally preparing to stay late and come up with ideas myself. Within 30 minutes each group had their idea and supply list ready and the next day they confidently and competently led the activities.”
A Collaborative Effort
Workforce Lab is made possible through the prayers and support of many.
Thank you to CareerSource Polk, GiveWell Community Foundation and its Impact Polk grant, Florida Prosperity Partnership, Publix Super Markets Charities, and the State of Florida that made Workforce Lab a reality and ensured this summer was an impactful time for these young people.
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 twenty-two years, 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.