Students Gain Job Experience, Life Skills in Workforce Academy

By Hermon Maclin, Prince George County Extension Agent, The Progress-Index

Prince George Promise is an organization that supports youth programs in Prince George County. Workforce Academy is one of their projects that provides career development opportunities for youth at Clements Junior High School. The students apply to participate in the program and attend a series of job-readiness classes and workshops throughout the school year. If they successfully complete the requirements, they are guaranteed a job for the summer.

Tia Taylor worked with 4-H this summer.

“I can list the skills I developed in this job when I'm filling out job applications,” said Tia.

As you can probably guess, you don't find many kids applying for jobs who have actually had experience working in a professional environment.

“I learned a lot about serving the public and customer service,” said Workforce Academy student, Christine Dunham.

Jared Smyth said; “The thing Mr. Ashcraft told us about being here to serve the people really stuck with me!”

Their first day on the job, Prince George County Administrator and Prince George Promise Board of Directors president, Percy Ashcraft, spoke to the group of Workforce students, driving home the point that they are serving the people and the responsibilities that come with that position.

Sharon Jadrnak sat in the coordinator's seat for Workforce Academy. She makes sure the students have jobs, but more importantly, she selects the curriculum and instructors for the program.

“It's really rewarding seeing the students grow in the program,” said Sharon.

Kids learn to use computer software, copy machines and answer phones, but more importantly, they develop character and hone skills that will help them succeed in life.

Additionally, Workforce Academy gives youth an opportunity to get a first-hand experience that may help them make wiser choices for their own career paths.

The Prince George 4-H youth development program partners with Workforce Academy. Just as in 4-H, it's not just mastering the skills of the job or project, like learning to answer the phone or make copies, that's important, it's the life skills that kids take away from the entire experience that matters. They learn to work as a team on the job with people they don't know. They learn why it's important to be responsible and trustworthy. They learn time management, how to prioritize and so much more.

Workforce Academy students pick up lots of soft skills on the job. Skills that help them avoid risky behavior and encourage responsible lifestyle choices. Skills that will ultimately be a big factor in determining whether or not they succeed or fail in the real world.

Hermon Maclin is an Extension agent with the Prince George County Virginia Cooperative Extension Office. He specializes in 4-H youth development.