Although Idaho’s economy is gradually improving, Idaho still has a higher unemployment rate than the national average, and teens and young adults have been hit particularly hard. (The jobless rate for Idahoans ages 16-19 in 2011 was 30 percent, 5 percent higher than the national average.) Here, we present several news items from the Idaho Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Labor on ways that educators can help their students and other young adults in their lives gain access to a difficult job market.
Future Ready website
describes emerging jobs
A new curriculum packet designed to help students make informed decisions about their careers and life’s work is available for download from the Student section of labor.idaho.gov/futureready. The curriculum packet includes ready-to-go lesson plans, career cards, infographics and involves accessing two websites complete with career ladders and lattices.
The career cards highlight 48 occupations in renewable, efficient and alternative energies, waste management, sustainable agriculture, and natural resources – jobs heavy in occupations involving science, technology, engineering, and math – as examples. The cards also provide quick reference data such as Holland Codes, wages, employment outlook, helpful high school courses, and the skills and abilities needed to pursue the occupation. Each career card also includes an indicator to identify which are considered green and/or STEM occupations.
The infographics are poster size and available for download to use with existing lessons and to develop new lessons. Topics include: What is a Green Job in Idaho? The Economic Impact of Green Jobs in Idaho, and Education in Idaho .
The Future Ready website also features six videos on occupations in the emerging green economy and details about scores of green occupations and dozens of green industries. For more information about the curriculum and how to access the career cards, contact Christie Stoll at (208) 332-3570.
Skills to Pay the Bills
The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy has announced the release of “Skills to Pay the Bills: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success,” a collection of career development exercises and activities designed to help sharpen the communication and other “soft” skills of young workers, including those with disabilities.
The curriculum – which covers communication, networking, enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking, and professionalism – is based on the results of a survey of prominent businesses to determine what they believe to be the most important competencies and skills for young workers. According to recent surveys, nearly three-quarters of employers indicated high school graduates were deficient in such basic skills as punctuality, verbal communication, and working productively with others. Businesses across the nation have identified soft skills as crucial to the hiring and employment success of all workers.
“Dressing appropriately, showing up on time, and networking with co-workers are all crucial to finding and keeping a job,” said Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy. “For many young people these skills are not intuitive. We hope educators, human resource professionals, job clubs, and faith-based organizations will use the curriculum to help our youth build the skills to succeed in the workplace.”
Available in English and Spanish, “Skills to Pay the Bills” was field-tested by youth service professionals and students across the country. The Massachusetts Migrant Education Program tested the materials in Spanish and seven other locations tested them in English. “The Soft Skills activities are fabulous,” said Virginia Dever, a facilitator from Louisville, Ky. “It is our obligation to teach our youth what is needed to succeed in life and in work, and these Soft Skills exercises fit the bill.” Brandon Pursley, a student from Madison, Fla., who used the curriculum and also designed its cover art, said that learning these skills “was an experience going beyond my dreams.”
Low-income teens land jobs
as digital learning coaches
Last summer, Levi Burklund, 17, worked a summer job as a digital literacy coach at the Caldwell Public Library where he offered individual assistance to library patrons with questions about how to use computers and what online education, job search and training programs are available.
At a time when it is notoriously hard for teens to find work, Burklund and 11 others were placed for the first time in public libraries throughout Idaho as digital literacy coaches. The national unemployment rate for young people 16 to 19 was more than 25 percent last August. Hosting a digital literacy coach benefits libraries and the public, especially in small communities where the libraries have a single librarian trying to serve patrons who rely on the library as the community's central cultural and educational resource.
Feedback from local librarians has been so positive, they identified 30 slots they are trying to fill for this summer alone. The digital literacy coach program is part of Idaho’s Summer Youth Corps, which provided jobs for more than 140 young Idahoans last summer. In addition to libraries, Youth Corps kids worked for private businesses, the U.S. Forest Service, state parks, farmers markets, school districts, and other organizations.
Wages for the digital literacy coaches are paid with Idaho Department of Labor Workforce Investment Act funds and a federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program monies received by the Idaho Commission for Libraries. The digital literacy coach program is open to high school graduates and college students from low-income families. In addition to earning the minimum wage, students learn workplace skills like punctuality, initiative, and strategies for developing good relationships with coworkers.
Other programs funded through Labor’s partnership with the libraries include workshops to introduce Idaho’s librarians to Labor’s job search services, the development of an online job search workbook and a series of video tips on how to look for work. The online module, “Maximize Your Job Search,” is accessible from the department’s website at labor.idaho.gov/jobsearch and on public access computers in libraries across the state.
“The goal of providing digital literacy coaches is to help the unemployed increase their computer skills,” State Librarian Ann Joslin said. “The coaches help library users make the most of available training and e-government resources and support local staff.”
More than 70 percent of Idaho’s public libraries are the only free source of Internet access in their communities. Fifty-five of Idaho’s least connected libraries are participating in the Idaho Commission for Libraries' two-year “online @ your library” project, which includes computer upgrades, faster access to the Internet and online resources, free access to job skills training, and adult basic education and informal learning resources for children.
Students interested in serving as a digital literacy coach should contact their local Idaho Department of Labor Workforce Investment Act youth coordinator. A directory of local offices can be found on the upper right hand corner of the Department of Labor’s website. Librarians interested in hosting a digital literacy coach should contact the Idaho Commission for Libraries at (208) 334-2150.
The digital literacy coach and Idaho Summer Youth Corps program are only two of several services provided by the Idaho Department of Labor for youth. Others include:
• School Support – Tutoring support, leadership development or earning a GED. *Program for at-risk, low-income, out-of-school youth age 16-21. Funds are limited. Eligibility restrictions apply.
• Job Search Assistance – Students can search job listings, create an online profile, or upload a résumé searchable by Idaho employers.
• Idaho Career Information – Career information, skills tests, education and training opportunities, and career portfolios are all available within Idaho's career information system at labor.idaho.gov/careerinfo.
• Work Experience – Students can work in a city library, out on the range, in a national forest, or as an intern for an Idaho company (Eligibility restrictions apply). Dozens of Idaho employers, schools and other sponsors also offer apprenticeships or on-the-job training programs. *Program for at-risk, low-income, out-of-school youth age 16-21. Funds are limited. Eligibility restrictions apply.
• Volunteer Opportunities – Students can open doors, give back to the community, gain some work experience, and maybe even earn some money by joining an AmeriCorps program or volunteering with Serve Idaho.
• Career Fairs – Labor’s local offices support career fairs held by schools throughout the state. Check the calendar at labor.idaho.gov or contact a local office near if your school has one planned.