BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – As young adults make the transition from classroom to workforce, the challenges that come with adapting to the working world can be daunting. 

In fact, one source claims that only one in four U.S. high school students graduate college-ready in the core subjects of English, Reading, Math and Science, which means that a number of high schools are not preparing students with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel after graduation.

But programs such as East Baton Rouge (EBR) Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s Mayor’s Youth Workforce Experience are designed to prepare teens for the working world, and experts agree that these kinds of programs are an excellent source of career literacy for young people.

One local expert, Gaylene Mack, serves as Executive Director of the Big Buddy program and says initiatives like the mayor’s Workforce Experience are just as valuable to the young participants as they are to the growth of Baton Rouge.

“It helps to curb violence and it helps to curb poverty,” Mack said. “It helps them (the participants) feel purpose. It lets them know someone is looking out for them. It’s important for the overall well-being of our community. When everyone helps someone, it returns great outcomes, and it makes Baton Rouge a great place to live.”

Mack’s statement coincides with data that links youth development programs with an increased likelihood for young participants to be more civic-minded and less likely to engage in violent behavior.

The Big Buddy Program is partnering with the Mayor’s Office for this summer’s Youth Workforce Experience.

“The Mayor is paying the young people and Big Buddy provides the professional development and the mentors,” Mack explained.

The young adults who participate in the Workforce Experience are referred to as Scholars and are placed with mentors at local companies. Mentors teach Scholars all about their jobs and assign each Scholar a set of responsibilities.

Malaiika Gibson, a former Youth Development Counselor from Baton Rouge, told BRProud that the knowledge young participants gain from the program can be life-changing to their future career endeavors.

“It teaches them how to dress, how to be on time,” Gibson said. “To be able to maintain a job, you have to have a soft skill. I think that gives the young people leverage.”

So, the trainees leave the program, not only with a paycheck, but with expanded skills that will make them valuable to future employers.

But Mack emphasized that in order for the program to be successful, the participation of local businesses is imperative.

“We need the employers to step forward,” Mack said.

Business owners who would like to host Scholars can participate in a series of webinars this week. The webinars will explain more about how the program works and about the benefits that come with hosting.

Sessions are scheduled to take place:

Tuesday, May 17th Session One: 1p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, May 19th Session One: 8:30 a.m. – 12 noon

Thursday, May 19th Session Two: 1 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 25th Session One 8:30 a.m.-12 noon

Wednesday, May 25th Session Two: 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m.

Interested business owners can click here to sign up for one of the above information sessions.  

The Workforce Experience, which will begin June 6 and end August 5, is open to young people aged 16-24 who’ve completed the application process.

Click here to start the application process.