Youth employment summit


ST. PETERSBURG – Sixty young people were intensively trained and connected to job opportunities last Sat., Nov 7 at the Childs Park YMCA. The Youth Employment Summit was a full day of workshops that taught valuable skills such as resume writing, the importance of job punctuality and appropriate attire for interviews.

Deborah Figgs-Sanders, executive director of Childs Park YMCA, and Gypsy Gallardo, publisher of Power Broker magazine had only days to organize the event. They contacted local businesses and community leaders to help with the charge of eradicating youth unemployment.

“When we were blessed with the funds from Bon Secours Health Systems, we were like, ‘Ok, we need to pull this together and we did in seven days,’” said Figgs-Sanders.

They started to get the word out three days prior to the event. Fliers were sent to youth mentor organizations and Facebook rounded out the campaign.

As one of the tasks in the 2020 Plan, which is a five-year effort to reduce poverty in the city’s poorest neighborhoods by 30 percent, the 200 in 2015 campaign set its sights on the city’s youth. As chairperson of the campaign, Figgs-Sanders was challenged with increasing the number of young people enrolled in programs that connect them to jobs, internships, paid training and career shadowing experiences.

The campaign was successful with 478 future leaders earning income through city-supported programs, 200 more than last year.

Nine partner agencies have worked together to coordinate the community-wide campaign, which was funded by the Tampa Bay Rays, Bon Secours Health Systems, the City of St. Petersburg, and United Way Suncoast, among others. Partners include: The City of St. Petersburg; Pinellas Opportunity Council; YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg; Mt. Zion Human Services; St. Petersburg College Midtown Campus; Boley Centers; Pinellas Ex-offender Re-entry Coalition; United Way Suncoast and the 2020 Plan Taskforce.

Participants in the summit, ranging in ages from 15-24, were divided into different age groups: 15-17, 18-20 and 21-24 year olds. Those who did not show up in appropriate attire for a job interview were promptly sent home. All those sent home made it back in time and were dressed appropriately.

Since one young man walked to the summit inappropriately dressed, he was given a ride back to his house for a change of clothes by Pat McGhee, one of the workshop facilitators.

“To me, it’s a testament of how you can really, really work together down to Pat driving somebody home,” said Gallardo. “Everyday people just pulling it together and enthusiastically reaching out to show support.”

Workshops at the summit included “Interviewing & Soft Skills” taught by School Board member Rene Flowers. She focused on proper interviewee etiquette with explanations of the importance of first impressions.

“Remember that whatever you say out of your mouth, you can’t take it back,” Flowers said also explaining that interviewers also read body language. “If you look like you really don’t want to be there, they will see it. The interview will be over very quickly.”

LaShanta Keys from the City of Clearwater conducted a dynamic workshop called “Resume Writing/Application Savvy;” Andrea Peaton from the Florida Department of Health taught the “Social Media Advantages/Pitfalls” workshop and entrepreneur Jarrod Douse of JDouse Photography explained how he went from corporate slave to owning a successful photography business in the “More Than Just a Hustle” workshop.

McGhee, who works for the Department of Juvenile Justice, conducted the “Dressing for the Job You Want” workshop. As a fashion designer, she has one foot in the fashion world and one in the professional world.

She had a laundry list of dos and don’ts. The young men were told to learn how to tie a tie and bow tie, and the ladies were told to wear natural makeup tones.

“Don’t go in there with banana yellow nail polish…Keep it natural; keep it simple; keep it clean,” McGhee said.

Participants had the opportunity to give their resumes to employers such as Goodwill, Dollar General, Pinellas County Schools, Honey Baked Ham, Family Christian Stores, New Advantage and Marintek Construction.

St. Petersburg Police Department’s Recruiting Officer, Robert Page was in attendance as a panelist employee. Attorney Shannon Ligon with Ligon Law Group offered information to attendees who have blemishes on their records. Other panelists included Londa Thomas with All Children’s Hospital; Director of Urban Affairs Nikki Gaskin-Capehart with the City of St. Petersburg; Arthurene Williams, owner Kidz World Preschool.

Each program participant was sent home with a $100 check for a job well done.

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