A Head Start on the Job Hunt

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Apart from the obvious benefit of earning money to do with as they please, having a part-time job can also provide teens with skills needed for their eventual career. And while they can blindly apply to any job posting and hope for the best, there are resources in the Rio Grande Valley that can help improve their chances of landing a job that fits their skills and helps them grow.

Empower, Educate, Employ (E3) is a program from Workforce Solutions, a state agency promoting a workforce system that offers employers, individuals, and communities the opportunity to achieve and sustain economic prosperity. E3 connects youths to target occupations.

Youth residents — from ages 14 to those in their early 20s — of Hidalgo, Willacy, and Starr counties meeting family income requirements are eligible for the program.

Workforce Solutions provides the young person with a counselor to determine their interests and match them with an employer in a target market — the fastest growing regional occupations ranging from human resource specialists to electricians to pharmacy technicians.

“This is where we close that gap between finding out the desires of the applicants, figuring out where they want to apply their interests, and connecting them to that industry,” said Mike Gonzalez, Workforce Solutions’ communications specialist. “They’re able to identify early on what their passion is and what they realize is, ‘this is something to give me a head start,’ so they’re all too eager to participate.”

Gonzalez said E3 currently has around 80 youths enrolled — some of whom are pursuing a four-year degree, and some looking for a career with a high school diploma — and that they’re all in positions with upward mobility.

“One of the key advantages is it really gets our workforce off the ground from an early point,” he said. “So what we’re doing with E3 is not so much just helping people find jobs, but helping people get skills that are going to last them. That’s the ultimate goal.”

Once the applicant’s interests are determined and they are connected to a workplace, the employer — or mentor — provides training for the job, while Workforce Solutions provides the mentee with payment at a rate of $7.25 an hour.

For more information on the program and target occupations, go to wfsolutions.org, or visit one of their six offices located throughout the RGV.

An alternative route for teens and young adults to find jobs while pursuing a college degree at UTRGV is through the university’s Career Center, which exists to help students in their career endeavors.

Students can make an appointment and visit the center for help in developing their resume, interview skills, and more.

John Kaufold, UTRGV’s Career Center internship coordinator, recommends students begin looking for a job as freshmen in order to get started on their professional development.

Even if they have no experience, Kaufold said they can utilize their soft skills to create their resume and begin applying.

“If we have a student come in with no job experience we ask them, ‘What do you do in your free time? Or what are you involved with?’” Kaufold said. “Do they have extracurricular activities? Are they involved with their church? Do they do any volunteer work where they’re working with communities to build and be a leader?

“We ask them to assess themselves, and this is how they start building up their resume.”

And for students who do possess work experience, Kaufold said staff at the Career Center can help them tailor their resume to best reflect their skills that match the criteria for the job they wish to apply.

Additionally, UTRGV has a range of on-campus part-time jobs for students that can be pertinent to an individual’s area of study. Kaufold estimates roughly 30 percent of students are employed in various departments at UTRGV.

“Working on campus, they get to create a network,” he said. “They can work with their peers that have the same skills and they can develop professionally together and build a bond. Plus, they have the staff that are mentors to them, too.”

While some of the campus jobs help prepare students for their eventual career, Kaufold also recommends they complete an internship, which will provide them with “hands-on experience … tied to their field of study.”

Through Handshake, the university’s job and event management platform, students have access to apply to more than 800 different internships — most of which, according to Kaufold, are paid. Or they can attend the Career and Internship Expo, which is held once per semester on both the Edinburg and Brownsville campuses.

Kaufold encourages any UTRGV student seeking guidance on their prospective career, or help in finding part-time employment, to visit the Career Center where he and his coworkers will “take the time to connect with the student to really understand what they want to do with their career.”

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