The Intern Chronicles: A Young Man's On-the-Job Training, Part 2
We're focusing on education and employment this month at NCFY, so we're reposting some of our favorite articles on those subjects. Here, we revisit the second article in a three-part series following Craig, a former shelter resident working as a part-time intern to help his peers. The series first ran in spring and summer 2012.
The last time we met with Craig, he was just beginning his internship at the transitional living program run by Sea Haven for Youth, a social services organization in North Myrtle Beach, SC.
Now three months into his tenure, Craig says he’s gearing up for a “claffle.”
Craig explained the concept, which he invented:
Class plus raffle equals claffle. Basically [transitional living program] participants and other local kids in youth serving programs can come in and have fun. It’s like an open house where kids can socialize with one another as well as win prizes from a raffle such as gift cards and other inexpensive rewards. While the youth are enjoying themselves, they are indirectly learning the life skill of socializing. ... Kids don't always need to feel stressed--sometimes they just need to relax and have fun.
Finding—and keeping—a part-time or summer job can be stressful for young people, especially those, like Craig, who are learning to live independently after having been homeless. NCFY has been following Craig’s experience to give a snapshot of the ups and downs of summer employment for young people in runaway and homeless youth programs.
A Fresh Point of View
So far, Craig has focused on bringing new ideas to marketing Sea Haven’s life skills program, which prepares youth for independent living by teaching them things like social skills and money management. In addition to the claffle, Craig came up with a roulette-style game the he’s using to teach youth about homelessness and Sea Haven’s services. When someone plays the game and answers a question correctly they may receive a bar of soap as a prize. On the soap wrapper, the lucky winner can read about Sea Haven's services.
Since he first thought up the game at the beginning of his internship, Craig has refined and expanded the concept.
“We can take the wheel one step further by having the kids solve a puzzle, making it a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ type game, and win a prize,” Craig said. “Just to make it more interactive--because I feel like when you involve kids more into what you’re doing, they are more receptive to what you’re talking about."
Working on the ‘Inside’
We asked Craig how being on the “inside” has affected him now that he’s moved from program participant to staff member. Craig says, “I definitely view it differently now--but my perspective of the agency is pretty much the same.”
Because he’s a graduate of Sea Haven’s program, Craig says he can help youth avoid mistakes. “I talk to them as if I am still a participant because I don’t feel that I am any different from them,” he says.
Craig’s case manager-turned-supervisor, Melissa McGrath, says that Craig also helps staff see the client perspective: “He gives us another way to look at it, something we may have not thought about before.”
For example, at a recent lunch date with his adult coworkers, Craig explained why youth might want to get a job before getting help for mental health problems, when staff members advised the opposite. He felt they might want to have their basic needs met before seeking treatment--and in order to do that they need a job. "Youth need to feel they can reach an achievable goal and then they will be able to focus on other things," he said.
Tips: Overcoming On-the-Job Challenges
Craig and Melissa shared these tips for helping young people make the most of their job experiences:
1. Life experience and maturity play a role in youths’ performance on the job. Check in with employers regularly and help them coach youth who may be immature or ill-prepared for a particular position.
2. Encourage employers to address on-the-job concerns such as timeliness, quality of work and seriousness as soon as possible and in private with youth. It’s important to be up front, but also to keep things confidential and not embarrass the young person.
3. Explain to employers the importance of letting youth have input, giving them the go ahead to act on their ideas, and increasing young people’s responsibilities as they seem ready. You can also talk to youth about the importance of taking initiative.
4. Work with employers to reward youths’ efforts when they go above and beyond their set tasks. Even if the boss just gives youth kudos at a staff meeting, everyone likes to feel appreciated.
More About Youth Employment
Read Craig's story from the beginning
Learn about a Seattle corporation's internship program for at-risk youth
Get tips on preparing formerly homeless youth for jobs