WSW program will connect young adults to internships

Today’s youth don’t have the same employment opportunities most of us had at their age

I am really excited to tell you about a program being launched by Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW) this summer, but first want to ask you a few questions. I want you to think about your first summer job. What was your first summer job? What were some of the lessons it taught you about work? What were some of the work-related skills it gave you that you carried into your professional career? Lastly, have you recently hired youth for your open summer or internship positions?

First jobs, typically those we get during our youth from ages 16 to 24, teach us the foundational skills of a good work career. They taught us how to show up on time (or early), dress appropriately for the job, develop good customer relations skills, learn initiative, show enthusiasm and many other fundamental work skills. Skills many current employers complain that not enough of today’s youth possess.

Simply put, today’s youth don’t have the same employment opportunities most of us had when we were their age. Today’s youth (ages 16 – 24) labor force participation rate peaked at 77.5% in July of 1989 and stood at 60.6% last July. The unemployment rate for those high school and college age students looking for work last summer stood at 9.2%, versus a national unemployment rate of 3.9% for all ages 16 and over.

At the same time, a fifth of our regional workforce is over age 55 and could retire within the next decade. Most Baby Boomers know what it was like to have a summer job or part-time job in high school, but most kids today have not been so lucky, and consequently aren’t being properly prepared for their careers.

WSW designed SummerWorks to connect businesses to young adults for 90-hour paid summer internships, where the payroll is handled by the program instead of the employer, and all of the wage, insurance and taxes costs are covered by the program.

This program isn’t just about finding jobs for young adults, but about developing future workers for your company, or for wherever these young workers’ careers lead them. Employers who have participated in similar programs elsewhere have ended up hiring these interns following their internships or hiring these interns after they completed their formal education.

SummerWorks begins by learning the skill-set needed by prospective employers for summer interns and entry-level positions, and then screens qualified and motivated young adults ages 16 to 21 in Clark and Cowlitz counties, for a fit with those employers.

Once internship candidates have been identified and screened, and before they begin work at a prospective employer’s business, they are put through 40 hours of work-skills training, job shadowing, informational interviews designed to help them understand the importance of great work ethics and the basic skills needed in a work environment.

Once placed in a prospective employer’s business during July and August of this year, these interns are teamed up with a mentor who provides ongoing coaching and support to help ensure their success and employer satisfaction while participating in the SummerWorks program.

This program is a great win-win all the way around. You get access to potential, groomed new talent and these young adults get some much needed work experience to help them launch their future work careers.

Paul Montague is the business services coordinator with the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, and is an enrolled agent with Paul Montague Tax Preparation, LLC. He can be reached at (360) 910-1218 or

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