On November 19, CONNECT2Careers (C2C) invited youth and employers to a special training and hiring event at the San Diego Zoo. This event was a powerful kick off to C2C’s 2016-2017 School Break Externship Program, which subsidizes wages for 50 young adults ages 16-24 to complete two meaningful, short-term work experiences. These will occur during their winter and spring breaks from school, with 22 hours allotted for each break. Funds from the County of San Diego’s Community Action Partnership support these paid externships. This year, 32 employers from a wide variety of sectors will be participating. Some of these include Qualcomm, the Ocean Discovery InstituteCoast Flight Training, the San Diego Airport Authority and the San Diego Mayor’s Office.

The School Break Externship Program works to empower underserved youth in San Diego’s Metro area to explore the professional world and its diverse opportunities. The event on November 19 helped jump-start that journey. C2C’s Taryell Simmons led the young adults in an elevator pitch workshop during the first part of the day, which gave them time to get comfortable with presenting themselves to employers. Following lunch, the young adults sat in on a panel with four of the employers hiring for the externship program. The panelists were Hans Gienapp of the San Diego Zoo, Nikiya McWilliams of Jewish Family Services, Lorelei Bunjes of IDW Publishing, and Abegale Colmenar of BioLabs. This panel gave the externship participants a better idea of the work and hiring practices companies engage in.

At the end of the day, youth had the opportunity to meet with all 32 employers during an informal mixer. They gave their elevator pitches to the employers with whom they were interested in working, giving them an opportunity to show professionalism and other essential skills before beginning their externships. “I had a wonderful time speaking to the students and was very impressed!” said Christina Vassos who was looking for candidates to hire at the Ocean Discovery Institute.

After the meet and greet, students were asked to drop off personal business cards provided by C2C with employers they were interested in. Employers also made selections and C2C has begun compiling the data to find matches and assign work sites. Externs and employers can expect to receive their assignments for both winter and spring break during the first week of December. The young adults will also receive other supportive services from C2C, including a gift card to buy professional clothing and transportation support in the form of either a bus pass or a gift card to cover the cost of a tank of gas.