Equipping, Engaging and Empowering Young Adults

Thelisa LavergneThe spring and summer seasons mark the beginning of warmer temperatures, outdoor activities, vacations, family reunions, etc. It’s also an exciting time for young adults in the Houston-Galveston region. During this time of year, there are numerous employment, training, and education opportunities for young adults through job fairs, hiring events, and college open houses. These initiatives provide young adults with job readiness, career exploration, and labor market information about high-skill, high-growth jobs in the Houston region.

The job market in the Houston-Galveston region has remained mostly strong in recent years with the unemployment rate holding around 7%, according to American Community Service’s (ACS) 5-year estimates. However, young people have not found it as easy to enter the labor force. Unemployment for young adults ages 20-24 is roughly 12%; and for teens ages 16 to 19 that rate rises to almost 24%.

In 2016, Mayor Sylvester Turner started an aggressive and innovative program in collaboration with community leaders, employers and businesses to provide young adults with resources and opportunities for job search and career exploration. According to Mayor Turner, “An able and ready workforce is critical to ensure a strong economic future for Houston.” The Hire Houston Youth program, offers youth ages 16 to 24 internship and job opportunities with public and private employers throughout the Houston area.

The Hire Houston Youth initiative is collaboration between the City of Houston, Workforce Solutions Gulf Coast, Junior Achievement, local school districts, the Greater Houston Partnership, area employers, and youth organizations, to support the initiative and assist 5,000 young adults with finding jobs during the summer 2018.

This initiative focuses on bringing together young people and employers to help them connect with one another and pursue employment opportunities. In training young adults for the job search process, participants receive resume assistance, job search assistance, on-site interview prep and coaching from Workforce Solutions staff and Junior Achievement trained volunteers. As a result, employers are able to interview young job candidates who demonstrate self-discipline and meet any expectations employers may have.

The job readiness topics have been carefully selected to prepare young adults specifically for the job search and interview process. The key elements of looking for a job include, but are not limited to, assisting young adults with completing both paper and online applications, writing a resume that highlights their skills and abilities, creating a 30-second commercial, and making first impressions that count. These topics are designed to equip, engage, and empower young adults with everything that they need to get a job, be successful in the workplace, and to make wise career and education choices.

“The strength of our future workforce is one of our nation’s greatest assets and is critical to our ability to compete globally,” said Allison Gerber, a senior associate who oversees the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s investments in improving job opportunities for low-income individuals and families. “The next generation is eager to work, but we must create more avenues for young adults to develop the knowledge and experience they need to succeed in the job market.”

Thelisa Lavergne is a member of the Regional (Texas Gulf Coast) Navigator team for Workforce Solutions. She specializes in providing training and education to the Gulf Coast community, career staff offices, and employers in assisting individuals with disabilities. She brings with her over 10 years of experience and expertise working in the nonprofit industry serving Houston’s disadvantaged community; individuals and families experiencing homelessness, victims of domestic abuse, and individuals and families experiencing hunger. However, her greatest contribution to Workforce Solutions is her compassion, commitment, and dedication to serving others. She holds a M.A. in Organizational Management, a B.S. in Training and Development, B.S. in Counseling, and a Certification as a Personal Fitness Trainer.



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