ORLANDO (CityofOrlando.net) – Studies have revealed that gaining work experience at a young age is linked to decreased school dropout rates and greater success in future work. Despite this, children from low socioeconomic families often receive fewer opportunities to engage in the workforce.
The City of Orlando is looking to tip the scale in the favor of youth in the community by providing early employment opportunities to some of its most disadvantaged kids. The Parramore Kidz Zone, an initiative aimed at improving the quality of life in Orlando’s highest crime, highest poverty area, launched its Youth Employment Program in 2010. Since then, more than 150 students have gained valuable career experience.
“The future is made brighter by our youth programming,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “Our economic vitality and quality of life depends on putting more kids on a path to high school graduation, college and a quality job.”
The PKZ Youth Employment Program provides Parramore youth with the opportunity to obtain employability skills training while working in real-world jobs with nonprofit organizations and City departments. Participants receive benefits such as daily responsibilities, professional development, workplace experience and a salary.
The program is funded by Heart of Florida United Way, CNL Bank and PolicyLink.
In addition to workplace responsibilities, participants are required to complete bi-weekly online classes and workshops pertaining to career development and financial literacy.
The program is providing each youth participant with a savings account. As participants earn money, 10 percent of their pay is deposited into the account for post-secondary educational expenses.
“This program provides youth participants and their families with a level of security and serves as an empowerment model for future success,” said Glen Providence, Parramore Kidz Zone youth development specialist. “Our goal is to reach out to more kids as we expand and be able to offer even more opportunities.”
With more than 30 students currently enrolled, the program hopes to expand to more than 80 students.
“It’s really about exposure. The ultimate goal of the program is to successfully prepare and move students from working through PKZ to employment opportunities outside of PKZ,” added Glen Providence.
As experience, professional development and education continue to be important predictors of future success, the City will continue to provide its youth with opportunities for professional growth.