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Program looks to connect teens with businesses for on-the-job experience

OCEANSIDE — Former high school teacher James Hayes saw a need for juniors and seniors to get on-the-job experience before they graduated from high school and went on to work or college. 

“Graduating students are not prepared for work,” Hayes said. “School is a sheltered environment. Students need experience or they’ll be held back after they finish their education.”

Hayes created YEP (Youth Employment Program) to connect high schools students and businesses seeking interns.

The program includes student workshops taught by YEP staff, an online network to connect students and businesses offering internships, and a service team that sets internship guidelines and assists with questions.

Hayes describes the online platform as the “hub” of the program.

“There’s an online platform to ease communication pathways,” he said.

An additional online feature is the opportunity for students to set up an employee profile on the closed Jobioz network.

YEP also provides workshops for students before they begin their internships. Skills in resume writing, job searching and decoding on the job culture are taught.

“Students need information and knowledge before they are sent out to an internship,” Hayes said.

Hayes added the “real learning” happens on the job.

“If students have healthy, professional adult role models they’re more likely to become successful,” he said. “The work environment is a different language, a different world.”

Currently YEP workshops have started at Oceanside High School and Ocean Shores High School.

The next step is to get businesses to participate and community funding for student internships.

YEP is designed to be a self-sustaining community partnership business, so it will have the ability to continue with or without grant funds.

Cities or school districts that wish to participate will be charged a minimal service amount to pay for YEP instructors, website maintenance and service assistance.

Businesses that wish to participate will also be asked to share in the costs of running the program.

“At a low cost, partners can share the burden of the cost,” Hayes said. “There are programs like this that are 100 percent funded by grants. If the funding is pulled, students suffer.”

Hayes said the source of funding is up to participants. Cities can adopt the program, school districts can fund it, corporations can sponsor the program or a combination of funding sources can be arranged.

Hayes presented an overview of the program to Oceanside City Council on April 17. Councilman Jerry Kern, a former high school teacher and one of the co-founders of Pacific View Charter School, introduced the item.

Kern said he is a cheerleader for the program. He added that it is valuable for students to have “hands on” experience and “something to put on their resume” when they apply for college and a first job.

Hayes received a thumbs up from council for helping youth, but was also cautioned by Mayor Jim Wood that other youth service groups and workforce support groups are competing for city funds.

Hayes said he is getting the word out about the start up program to city councils, school districts, chambers of commerce, and businesses along the state Route 78 corridor and beyond.