Office-Ready at Eighteen

Youth Employment Program equips students with on-the-job skills

At 18, Christopher Adams is already a seasoned employee. In his second year with CITC’s Youth Employment Program (YEP), Christopher was appointed to a newly created position, Senior Intern, and given extra responsibilities, including acting as a mentor to new interns and a liaison between YEP participants and CITC staff. Since starting, he has interned with CITC’s IT department, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, and KNBA. Today, he works the Employment and Training Services department, filing and doing data input.

He’s come a long way since his first internship year, he said.

“I had a lot of energy when I was younger,” he admitted euphemistically, clarifying that “I used to be louder and more hyper. Being here, I learned this is a place where adults help other adults, and you need to be quiet so people can hear each other. I learned to be more mature and quieter, and I learned to be kinder. And I’ve learned to type faster, talk clearly, do email, practice good hygiene, dress professionally, do my tasks on time.”

In short, before even graduating high school, Christopher has learned to be a professional employee. That’s the goal of YEP, which is open to any Alaska Native or American Indian youth aged 14 – 24 who want to be ready for the real world once the time comes to get a job.

“It’s a great way to get hands-on work experience and receive mentorship,” said Natasha Webster, CITC Case Manager with YEP.

While the young workers get on-the-job experience, employers also receive an advantage from hiring a YEP intern. Because CITC pays each YEP intern’s entire salary, employers essentially get an intern for free. On top of this, they have an opportunity to positively impact the next generation of employees.

The next YEP cohort will start their internships this October, but summertime is the big push: This June, the program recruited more than 50 young people who worked both at CITC and with more than ten off-site partners, including Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Boys and Girls Club, Cook Inlet Housing Association, KNBA, and Trailside Discovery. YEP provides summer interns with a minimum of 20 work hours each week, though participants may work up to 40 hours.

“It’s an amazing program,” Natasha said. “Even if it’s just for one session, I would encourage any young person to pursue the program because they can use it as a conduit to ask those questions they might feel hesitant asking an actual employer. Young people can use YEP as their learning curve before they ever enter the workforce.”

That’s what Christopher did. Since becoming a YEP intern 2017, he has not only grown and matured into a professional worker; he has learned basic office skills, like how to apply for a job and keep it, how to do his timesheet, how to show up at work on time, dressed appropriately, and ready to work, and how to talk to a supervisor.

He has also wowed his coworkers with his stellar filing abilities.

“My coworkers were surprised at how fast a learner I was,” Christopher shared. “They said I’m their best filer; I can find files even case managers can’t find. I’m the first one they come to now when a file needs to be made.”

Hear all about Christopher’s YEP internship experience, straight from him, in this video:

The internship has had positive ramifications beyond work life. Because he needs to maintain a 2.5 GPA to stay with the program during the school year, Christopher’s grades have improved since he joined YEP; he received almost all As, with just one B, on his last report card. The former West High student enrolled this year at Galena Interior Learning Academy, which he says better suits his learning style.

“I wish we didn’t have to let him go,” Natasha lamented. “Christopher was awesome. He was very smart, very hands-on, very on top of things. He was just helpful. A lot of times, you didn’t have to ask Chris to help, he just kind of went in there and got it done.”

Thanks to YEP, Christopher and young people like him embark on their adult years already equipped with experience working in an office setting and collaborating with coworkers. They’ve developed skills that can be applied to any career — including one as a pilot.

“Everyone in my department wants me to work here,” he said. “But I want to be in the air! I’d like to become a pilot, go to flight school in Bethel.”

For his immediate future, Christopher is taking the lessons he learned from YEP and using them to plan ahead. “I’ve learned how to be responsible. I know money doesn’t last forever now. I’m thinking about how to invest my money, how to save for college. I love it here, but I can’t wait to go back to school!”

For more information on CITC’s YEP program, call (907) 793-3300.