Teens, young adults gain work experience
By By Lynette Wilson / staff writer
Oct. 10, 2002
Two weeks ago, 17-year-old Dionte Williams got his first job: He makes pasta, waits tables and runs the cash register at Luigi's New York Style Pizzeria.
Through the Work Force Investment Act of 1998, young adults 16-21 who dropped out of high school, are deficient in basic skills or come from an economically disadvantaged home are given a chance to work for local businesses on a trial basis.
Participants work an average of 20 hours a week up to a total of 200 hours. A grant to the Meridian Public School District funds the $5.15-an-hour minimum wage salaries.
After 200 hours, businesses must decide whether or not to permanently hire the worker. While permanent jobs are not expected, that is the goal of the program.
The program is operated out of the Boys and Girls Club on 45th Avenue.
Program participants meet from 7:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Monday through Friday, where they prepare for the General Educational Development test and develop work habits and skills.
Pennington said the workforce program is designed to remove job barriers for the 115 people it serves.
Robyn Hancock, the program's employment-training specialist, said she works with students to assess their interests and asks them what they plan to do once they get their GED.
Brenda Colvin, manager of Luigi's, said she encourages every business to open its door to the program and its participants.
Luigi's has hired two program participants. One of them is now a permanent employee paid by Luigi's; Williams is the other. He started two weeks ago and is paid through grant money.
Colvin said the workforce program offers Luigi's a great opportunity to create positive examples and mentor potential employees.