By James Brescia, Ed.D.
Today’s youth struggle in ways not experienced by previous generations as they complete schooling and enter the workforce. This month’s article describes the potential of community investment in youth workforce development in San Luis Obispo County. Local businesses and participants reflect positively on the Summer Jumpstart program conducted by The County Office of Education. This summer program is another phase of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) or local workforce development with SLO Partners, local business leaders, and local chambers of commerce.
The pandemic negatively impacted youth employment and other workforce-related opportunities, such as internships and apprenticeship programs. These programs are essential stepping stones to career entry and local workforce growth. Besides the loss of income, primarily through summer and after-school jobs, unemployment can negatively affect the psychological, economic, and social well-being of individuals and communities, including youth. According to decades of research, investing in youth is innovative, and doing so recognizes that youth success is critical to our nation’s economy and democracy. Failure to invest in youth triggers substantial social problems, leading to adverse outcomes.
The three-day 2023 Summer Jumpstart held in South County, San Luis Obispo, and North County enrolled over 75 youth. The program successfully prepared participants in employment readiness, workplace communication, and customer service skills. Each participant received a $300 scholarship for completing the program, received a service training certificate recognized by local business leaders, and was assisted in securing local employment. The final day session included interviews with local businesses.
“This is the best thing! Our community needs these types of programs.” — Amit, Vagabond Inn & Harbor House
“Participants were very eager, engaged, and prepared.” —Vicki, Farm Supply
The businesses that participated in the Summer Jumpstart program included Farm Supply, The Cliffs, Madonna Inn, Martin Resorts, Idlers Home, Sea Crest, Luna Red, Novo, The Tides, Tolosa Dental, Harbor House, Vagabond Inn, Target, Paso Robles Golf Club, Deeds Restaurant, Il Cortile Ristorante, Cal Coast Beer Company, Peach Tree Hotel, and Hampton Inn. Each of the businesses participated in the interviews, provided input on the curriculum, and endorsed the program.
“We loved being part of the participants’ journey in discovering life after high school.” — Christina, Sea Crest
Throughout the summer sessions, participants received an assessment, training, certification, interview training, and placement in several San Luis Obispo County business sectors. The County Office of Education funded the cost of the classes, and the CTE Foundation provided each participant scholarship. Business leaders provide access to staff to teach participants some of the skills required to succeed in local businesses. After the summer sessions, participants were invited to enter other apprenticeship programs with employment opportunities throughout San Luis Obispo County.
“This course gave such valuable and realistic advice for customer service in every aspect. It was thoroughly enjoyable and definitely worth the time spent.” — AJ
Young people without access to youth development opportunities slip further and further behind, resulting in dramatically different positive outcomes than youth with more significant opportunities and access to programs. Negative developmental trajectories lead to poorer long-term health and economic development in adulthood. Research shows, however, that youth engagement in programs like Summer Jumpstart can increase school commitment and academic achievement.
“I had such great fun and active engagement in the course. I feel this has hugely impacted my skills in having better emotional intelligence in the workspace and all life environments. I hope this course can someday be part of high school requirement classes.” — Victoria
Programs like Summer Jumpstart prove we are adaptive, resourceful, and hopeful. It is an honor to serve as your county superintendent of schools.