In tough times, unions, agencies, target young workers

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Capital News Service
LANSING – As young job seekers continue to face serious barriers, unions and public agencies are trying to help them succeed.
Mark Gaffney, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, said, “It’s a challenge for young people seeking employment. The worst time is for young workers between the ages of 16 and 26.
“Many young workers are being passed over in favor of older workers with more experience,” he said.
Help is available from a variety of organizations.
Gaffney said the national AFL-CIO has an outreach program that provides assistance in seeking employment.
A similar program is being developed for the Michigan AFL-CIO, which has built a corps of young leaders across the state, including Traverse City, to help young people improve their skills.
Sean Egan, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 275 in Coopersville, said, “Our members work as construction electricians and go to other areas for employment temporarily. Members also find a way into college to gain other skills that they didn’t have before.”
Other organizations are involved as well.
For example, Michelle Socha, business liaison for Northwest Michigan Works! (NMW) which covers Benzie, Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties, said, “We give out a number of interest surveys and hold workshops on career research offered at no cost.”
Socha said NMW has service centers in Petoskey and Traverse City that offer computers for job searches and assistance in filling out applications and posting resumes on Michigan Talent Bank.
NMW also runs business camps to help people prepare for new career opportunities.
Socha said the agency has a staff of youth advisers who work with 16-to 21-year olds, schools and local employers to provide services, including specialized youth programs in 10 counties.
Dana Venhuizen, a youth adviser for NMW in Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties, said, “We help young people with getting their GED and high school completion. We provide online career services and career assessments. Our program also offers experience and training in different career fields.”
Venhuizen said youth advisers offer an employability workshop as well as provide assistance in skill development, resume writing and interviewing skills.
Participants get a referral from their school to work with the advisers.
The programs also help at-risk youths, high school dropouts and pregnant teens who fall within certain economic guidelines.
In another initiative, Gaffney said, the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan based in Detroit is helping young workers at non-unionized businesses.
Gaffney said employees who work with the ROC-MI get free training to help improve their skills and their income.

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