First jobs can be an exciting, but also scary endeavor for most young people, and this milestone can be even more challenging for youth who do not have family or stable home environments. There are nearly 24,000 children who age out of the foster care system in the U.S. each year. Some will face hardships as they set out to create successful and self-sufficient lives. The Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) strives to ease this transition by providing workforce services to Arizona foster youth preparing to enter our workforce.
DES Community Engagement Liaison, Regina Weiler, is passionate about helping foster youth prepare for employment success. Weiler provides workforce education to foster youth through the Department of Child Safety (DCS) Arizona Young Adult Program (AYAP) and in “Transition Camps” hosted by foster care agencies for youth in care nearing 17 and 18 years of age. DES offers basic workforce readiness training, including education on how to identify and set career goals, apply and search for jobs, create a resume and prepare for a successful job interview, explore registered apprenticeship opportunities in Arizona, and much more.
“Youth can enter the [AYAP] at the age of 16 and will exit the program on their 21st birthday, or earlier if they choose to do so,” explained DCS Central Region Community Coordinator, Pam Harris. “During these five years, youth are provided with assistance to help them become successful adults. A fun way to increase their knowledge of resources available to them is attending the Annual Youth Convening.”
In addition to the regularly occurring workforce services DES provides, Weiler also offers employment skills at the Annual Youth Convening events, which are tailored to provide youth with the vital life skills they’ll need to live on their own. Topics covered at the events often include information about banking, insurance needs, self-care, housing, legal knowledge, post-secondary education, safety and more.
“Many agencies and providers come together to make this [event] happen and everything is donated,” said Harris. “We try and provide an experience for these youth that they might not have had before.”
Workforce skills are a necessity for youth at this event since a steady income will be crucial for their success.
Weiler’s next priority is to work with mentors in foster care agencies to make them aware of the [email protected] workforce system and how it can be another resource for youth during their transition.
DES recognizes May as Foster Care Awareness Month and will continue to assist Arizona’s foster youth for success in our communities and workforce. For more information about workforce services in Arizona, please visit www.ARIZONAatWORK.com.
By Jillian Seamans