TeenQuest Graduates Meet Employers

Summer Youth Initiative (SYI)(FLINT, MICH. – MAY 10) Portfolios, suits and resumes are familiar fare at job fairs; however 14 to18 year-olds are not as common.  On Saturday, May 14, an uncommon scene will play out as more than 1,000 TeenQuest graduates have an opportunity to gain summer employment at the Summer Youth Initiative (SYI) Job Fair.  The event takes place from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Baker College of Flint.

Students who graduated from TeenQuest, a free afterschool pre-employment and leadership program of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce are eligible to participate in the SYI Job Fair.  SYI helps participating teens prepare for and connect to job opportunities.

Tim Herman, the Regional Chamber’s CEO describes TeenQuest and SYI as a source of pride for the Regional Chamber. “We are incredibly proud to serve this community by providing valuable first-job experience for our young people, while at the same time providing a well-qualified talent pool for nonprofits and businesses when they are ready to hire summer help,” said Herman.

For-profit employers are eligible for a 50 percent match of the students’ salary for the first 90 days of employment.  Nonprofits compete for funding to pay 100 percent of employing the students.  According to Dr. Gail Ganakas, Executive Director of Community Education and Relations for Flint Community Schools, the Regional Chamber provides invaluable service to the community through TeenQuest and SYI.

“In these tough economic times, it is great to have a community effort to employ kids who might otherwise not find summer employment,” said Dr. Ganakas.  “We hire more kids through the Summer Youth Initiative than any other employer and we’ve seen the program grow and evolve.  The TeenQuest program is incredible.”

“Each year we are able to hire student employees to work in our day camp with younger kids, work on maintenance and grounds work, as well as assist with building inventory for schools,” Dr. Ganakas added. “And quite frankly, we would not be able to employ them without the program.  We have kids who want to come back and work with us year after year, even after they have gone off to college.  This is a phenomenal community resource.”

“Each year more and more students participate in TeenQuest,” said Rhetta Hunyady, Group Vice President of Operations and Employer Education and Training Connection for the Regional Chamber. “By participating in TeenQuest and SYI, our students get invaluable preparation that sets them on a path to become the leaders of the future.  The employers who participate in the job fair appreciate the ability to choose the best highly prepared students for the positions they seek to fill.”

Sarah Hierman, Director of Programs for the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan cites the level of professionalism the students bring to positions they fill each year from the SYI Job Fair as a credit to the preparation they receive during TeenQuest.

“Our student employees help meet critical community needs through our summer food program.  When we first began hiring students through the job fair, we only hired six or seven students.  But once we became familiar with the quality of the candidates available through the fair – that number increased every year.  This year we are looking for 36 employees,” said Hierman.

“We see the job fair as the first step in a real world employment process.  The next step is a second interview and prior to hiring a student we ask them to provide a reference – just like we would for adult employees.”

Last year, nearly 500 teens were employed through SYI at 26 nonprofits and businesses in Flint and Genesee County.

TeenQuest is a free after-school pre-employment and leadership program for teens ages 14 -18 designed to teach students the basics of teamwork, business etiquette, work ethics, communication, goal setting and conflict resolution. The six-week program is offered year-round and is a pre-requisite for SYI participation.

About the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce

The Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce (www.flintandgenesee.org) is the voice of business and community advocacy in Genesee County. The Regional Chamber is over 100 years old, was established before the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and is a founding member of the United States Chamber of Commerce.

Two words describe the Regional Chamber as it enters its second century of service: collaboration and partnership. It is our goal to work with government, business, education and nonprofit organizations to support the growth and development of the community economically, culturally and socially.

About the Summer Youth Initiative and TeenQuest

The Summer Youth Initiative is a program that helps Flint-area teens find paid summer jobs. It’s open to students who’ve completed the TeenQuest afterschool program, which provides pre-employment and leadership training to students ages 14 to 19 to help them succeed in college and the 21st century workplace. Both programs are administered by the Genesee Area Focus Fund, a supporting organization of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, with support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. To apply or learn more, visit www.flintandgenesee.org/teenquest.