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Claire Ion Special to The Skanner News
Published: 12 September 2013

TriMet partnered with the SummerWorks program for the first time this summer, sponsoring 30 jobs for high-risk teens. Twenty-three of the teens worked at TriMet doing a variety of jobs ranging from office work to field work in the community. Areas of work included public affairs, outreach, customer service, operations and maintenance, diversity and transit equity, and planning and policy.

"It's our goal to make sure our workforce reflects the populations we serve," says Johnell Bell, TriMet Director of Diversity and Transit Equity. "TriMet is just one partner of a regional effort in the city of Portland, Multnomah County, the Department of Health and Human Services, all with the end goal in mind—to provide opportunities for young people in the summertime."

According to a survey done by the Employment Policies Institute in May, 2013, Oregon is the eighth worst state in the country for teen unemployment, with only 24 percent of teens working. For African American teens the employment rate is 41.6 percent.

"At first I was apprehensive about doing bike counts and working in TriMet's Planning and Policy department, but everyone here actually cares about us interns and are always willing to help whenever I have questions," says Kasacia Blacknall, an 18-year-old attending PCC and PSU in the fall. "In general, I feel like I am a part of the TriMet family."

Blacknall worked multiple jobs this summer to prepare financially for school, but her internship with TriMet meant the most to her. "Not very many high school grads can say that they landed an internship with the biggest public transportation company in Oregon, and it's a paid internship!" She said she learned how TriMet operates and serves its customers as well as some life skills including time management and public speaking. "TriMet has given me the chance to meet and network with people that I believe will help me in my future endeavors."   

SummerWorks, a program of WorkSystems, Inc., helps at risk teens stay engaged while not in school through summer jobs. SummerWorks staff understands that youth need opportunities to learn critical workplace skills that can only come through real-work experience. They provide work-readiness training prior to placement and screening and matching youth to jobs. The organization's staff also provides coaching and networking opportunities to further the youths' summer experience. For many of these teens, it is their first job and they are eager to learn, not to mention receive their first hard earned paycheck.


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