Program focuses on job skills for youths

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 1, 2000

A new Lawrence County jobs program will focus more on the area’s future, connecting county youths with the skills they need to find – and keep – jobs.

Tuesday, August 01, 2000

A new Lawrence County jobs program will focus more on the area’s future, connecting county youths with the skills they need to find – and keep – jobs.

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The Workforce Investment Act replaces the former Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), focusing on providing more skills and opportunities to local teens and young adults, said Robert Pleasant, Workforce Development Resource Center (WDRC) youth coordinator.

"The entire program has changed from JTPA as of June 30 to the Workforce Investment Act to become more of a youth opportunity program," Pleasant said. "The new program not only has the summer employment during the summer, but it also has a leadership academy in which youths are taught the skills they need to maintain a job. This program is no longer just a summer program, but it creates and allows for year-round activities."

He said the summer academy only lasts for seven weeks, but other activities continue throughout the year to provide opportunities in building skills individuals need to find and keep jobs.

"Another aspect of the Workforce Investment Act that makes it better than before is that youths between the ages of 14 and 21 can now participate in the program for a period of up to seven years," Pleasant said. "In the past, under the old JTPA, individuals were only allowed to participate for two years. The goal is still the same in that we are working to get them employed and keep them there, but instead of only lasting through the summer, it now can continue throughout the year."

The act of Congress now gives WDRC the opportunity to address concerns of youth in more rural areas by creating programs that will help individuals in the program, Pleasant said.

"What’s nice about this program that makes it better than JTPA is that we are able to form strong partnerships and create a unified front to address needs of our youths in Lawrence County," he said. "We can now address problems such as math, reading and communication skills, substance abuse, child care, transportation, in addition to providing encouragement to finding jobs. Our No. 1 goal in this program is to encourage youths to stay in school and get that diploma … and this program gives us an opportunity to do that year-round."

Calvin Carpenter, a 17-year-old youth participant, said the new program is much better than the JTPA program because more of his needs are being addressed.

"I was in JTPA last year and I think the program is better this year because you get help with your school work," Carpenter said. "Last year, the JTPA program didn’t help me with any school work or even any problem I might have had in my personal life, but this year, these guys don’t just blow you off. They take time to understand me as an individual and help me with my math, my reading, and my communication skills."

Kimberly Lucas, 14-year-old youth participant, said this year is her first year in the program but she is already thankful for the opportunities that have been given to her.

"I’ve met a lot of friends in this program," Lucas said. "What’s really nice about it is that these people help you understand things other people wouldn’t. They have also taught me how to keep track of the money I earn. This program is more than I expected it to be."

Allowing participants in the program to seek help in areas in which they might be having trouble makes the program more beneficial for the youths, Leroy Baise, WIA math instructor said.

"Taking these students that are willing to take time out of their summer to learn skills they need and might be having trouble in, plus learning job skills, is the best part of this program," Baise said. "It’s a real joy for me to see these youths realize they need strength in different areas and taking the time to better themselves. I think this program is really inspiring."