(Flint, MICH., March 20, 2014) – Teen unemployment is at record high levels. This is bad news for teens now, but it could also be bad news for them as adults as well.  “We have found that young people who have a work experience when they’re 16 or 17 are far more likely to succeed in a job later on,” said Carol Rivchun, head of Youth Opportunities Unlimited, in an interview on Public Radio’s Marketplace Morning Report March 5.

TeenQuest graduates TeenQuest graduates have an advantage over their peers locally. The five-week TeenQuest training, a program of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, prepares teens for the workplace, making them more marketable and better able to keep a job once they get one.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 26 percent of teens in the U.S. are employed, compared to the previous year when 46 percent of teens were employed.

The good news for TeenQuest graduates is that they have an advantage over their peers locally. The five-week TeenQuest training, a program of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, prepares teens for the workplace, making them more marketable and better able to keep a job once they get one.

In TeenQuest they learn about the expectations of employers, how to set goals, manage conflict and write a resume. TeenQuest graduates have learned about workplace ethics, taking initiative and business etiquette, and they have been put to the test in mock interviews. They are ready to work.

The final TeenQuest class of the 2013-14 school year graduates March 27, bringing to 733 the total number of teens aged 14 to 19 that have been prepared for the workplace this program year.

“First impressions are made in seven seconds. TeenQuest gives teens the skills they need to make a good first impression to get a job, and then continue to impress employers to keep that job,” said Rhetta Hunyady, Vice President of Education and Training for the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.

TeenQuest graduate TeenQuest graduates have an advantage over their peers locally. The five-week TeenQuest training, a program of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, prepares teens for the workplace, making them more marketable and better able to keep a job once they get one.

Not only is TeenQuest is a pre-employment and leadership training program, it is also a pre-requisite for employment through the Summer Youth Initiative (SYI), which matches employers with TeenQuest graduates for summer employment in Genesee County. It is through SYI that many teens gain that coveted first paid work experience.  The SYI Job Fair is scheduled for April 26.

The TeenQuest advantage is evident whether teens pursue post-secondary education or transition from school directly to the workforce.

TeenQuest success stories:

 Dondre Young graduated from TeenQuest in 2008. His first job, through SYI, was with Flint Community Schools as a summer school assistant teacher. That first job led to two other positions with the Flint Community Schools, Team Leader & Supervisor for the Super Summer Success Reading Program and Education Administration Intern & Data Analyst for the Department of Community Education & Relations.

“My TeenQuest experience provided me with a great deal of information on how to prepare for interviews with employers,” said Young. “It also provided me with the necessary skills to effectively network with professionals.”

A TeenQuest lesson Young says he still uses in the “real world” is the S.M.A.R.T goal system (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely).  Currently a senior at Michigan State University, Young credits his TeenQuest training for helping him develop the confidence needed to manage a statewide program for the Michigan United Conservation Clubs as an intern.

Landon Hendrix, who graduated from TeenQuest about the same time as Dondre Young, transitioned directly from high school to the workforce. And like Young, he experienced the TeenQuest advantage with his first job working at Sonic.

“I started out on the drive-through, was promoted to trainer and ended up as shift manager,” Hendrix said of that first job.

He continued on his path of professional success with his next employer, Tim Horton, where he started in an entry-level position that paid minimum wage. Within three months he was promoted to supervisor and soon after was promoted to General Manager of the Grand Blanc location.

“I skipped right over the Assistant Manager position to General Manager,” he said. Hendricks believes there is a direct correlation between his TeenQuest training and his professional success.

“TeenQuest gave me a better outlook,” he said, “it prepared me for what was expected in the workplace and taught me to think ahead. It made me more focused on the job and what I needed to do to get the job done.”

Hendrix did eventually pursue higher education, but parenthood and full time employment sidelined his degree plans. It hasn’t dimmed his ambition to continue his climb up the corporate ladder, however. Hendrix has his sights set on working for Tim Horton at the corporate level and someday owning his own business.

Kendra Carlock is an example of a graduate who is putting her TeenQuest advantage to work both professionally and educationally. When Carlock graduated from TeenQuest, she landed a Ranger position at Kearsley Park in Flint, and fell under the tutelage of Kay Kelly, Director of the Park and Director for Kearsley Park Players, a theater troupe based at the Park.

To fulfill her graduation requirements for Mott Middle College, Carlock leveraged her TeenQuest training and SYI job experience into an unpaid internship with Kelly during the school year, providing theater experiences for the Chamber’s YouthQuest program.

Having worked for Kelly for three years, this summer Carlock will serve as teen supervisor for the SYI staff at the park, giving her more responsibility and more money. The higher pay rate will help with the next educational goal. Her TeenQuest and SYI experiences have helped Carlock identify her long term goal to work in the human services area. When her summer stint supervising Kearsley Park rangers is finished, Carlock will enroll at Mott Community College to start the next step in her professional development.

For more information about the TeenQuest advantage and the Summer Youth Initiative (SYI), or to become an SYI employer, contact Rhetta Hunyady at rhunyady@flintandgenesee.org or Paul Stainbrook at pstainbrook@flintandgenesee.org.

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.