WEEKI WACHEE — It's a brave new — and tough — world for young adults venturing into the workplace as the recession trims available jobs and pits these new workers against their elders.
But a new work-readiness program is helping prepare local youth for those challenges, with a special emphasis on the potential offered by environmentally friendly jobs.
"Everyone is going green now," said Alexandra Hantzis, 19, who is completing her tenure in the training program. "For any job you do, whether it's in cosmetology or as a contractor, it's an advantage. You can make that company more green."
Over the past five weeks, 60 students participated in courses in four locations across Pasco and Hernando counties. Participants in three of the programs will graduate today while the remaining one wraps up in the coming days.
Eleven students in the Youth Going Green group that met in Spring Hill will be honored at an awards ceremony at the Wildwood Christian Center in Weeki Wachee.
The program, with the Pasco-Hernando Workforce Board and Youth Connections, includes job simulations and hands-on training ranging from workplace safety and etiquette to mock interviews and job applications. Participants work up to 25 hours per week and receive a training stipend.
Money for the program came from federal stimulus funds that were added to the Workforce Investment Act.
Youth Connections is a Henkels & McCoy program designed to provide youth with employability skills, credentialing and other training services.
"We work with kids (aged) 16 to 21 that have specific barriers and try to help them overcome them," said program manager Denise Szulis.
Students built a model hydrogen car and a model wind turbine as part of a green technology segment. They also built computers from a kit, installing the drives and connecting the motherboard. Once the computer was complete, they installed software and created a resume.
These computers will be donated to local nonprofit groups that apply.
During the course, many participants learned for the first time that money was available to help them with higher education.
"They've done the (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)," said Szulis. "A lot of them have never heard of this. It's really opened and expanded their minds quite a bit."
The summer youth program is geared toward economically disadvantaged students with the intention of helping them set goals to reach financial independence.
Kal'Treshia Brown-Mobley, 20, of Weeki Wachee said the job training skills put her one step closer to reaching her goal of joining the Navy or Air Force. And she's serious about her future.
"I have a 21/2-year-old daughter," She said. "I have to be on top of it."
Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.