The PACE Center for Girls is expanding its training for teens with a new career readiness program. A $60,000 grant from the Fort Lauderdale-based Community Foundation of Broward will launch We Can Do It in January under the direction a full-time coach.
Unemployment among teenagers is “stubbornly high,” said Thor Barraclough, vice president of marketing for the foundation. At the same time, there are a lot of job openings but young people lack the soft skills employers are looking for.
“Interpersonal skills are very important,” said said Aggie Pappas, executive director of the Wilton Manors center.
“You can teach the hard skills, but if they can’t work in an office environment, they’re in trouble,” Barraclough said.
“Soft skills include teamwork, critical thinking, collaboration, how to develop partnerships, now to negotiate, and how to navigate in the work place so you are the best of your best,” Pappas explained.
In addition, the career coach will guide teens ages 16 to 18 in job searching, college exploration and entry level opportunities. The position will accommodate the center’s existing vocational education and job placement programs.
With the help of local employers including Citrix, Ultimate Software and Modernizing Medicine, students are able to tour various workplace environments.
“The girls go to different job sites to learn about that particular career,” Pappas said.
Last year, Starbucks began hiring the center’s teens. About a dozen accepted jobs both full and part time. The coffee icon places them in nearby neighborhoods to minimize transportation issues.
The placement program is a prototype for PACE. It will move into Miami and Palm Beach County next.
“We want to create more partners so the girls can experience even more,” Pappas said. “We’re looking at businesses, nonprofits, and post secondary institutions that will give the girls opportunities.”
PACE Broward is one of 19 centers in Florida. About 85 females attend its middle and high school and 150 come in for counseling and therapy sessions every month. All its services are free.
Girls are referred to the center through their schools or the court system, but all are there voluntarily, Pappas said.
“We want them to feel empowered,” Pappas said. “We give the girls opportunities to make choices and use their voice and leverage the services so they can… internalize it and be motivated.”