With unemployment rates down, Mesa Mayor John Giles is trying to prepare the city’s youth for the workforce.
The Mayor’s TeenForce is a four-week program that pairs Mesa teens with local businesses to complete unpaid internships, while incorporating service projects and job skills training along the way.
The goal of the program, said Giles, is to teach students skills in leadership, teamwork, communication and responsibility as a means to guide them toward the field of their choice.
“There’s a lot of times where we think we’re passionate about something and spend years of education going down that path. Then, when we show up for work, we quickly realize, ‘I hate this,’” he said, adding:
“We want young people to have hands-on experience with a potential career choice and see if it confirms or discourages them from pursuing it.”
The program encompasses careers in industries ranging from healthcare, engineering, education and law.
Around 48 businesses are set to participate this year, including CN Resources, Banner Baywood Medical Center, Everything Bundt Cakes, Arthur Murray Dance Studio, Falcon Field Airport, IDEA Museum and A New Leaf.
According to the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity, the unemployment rate for Maricopa county is 4.1 percent – compared to the 4.9 percent in January and 4.3 percent last year.
Because of this, Giles said he believes it’s beneficial for students to see what they’re up against after graduation.
“It’s good news that people are continuing to find work here. We want to make sure that Mesa continues to provide a great workforce,” he said.
“Workforce development, including practical training like the Mayor’s TeenForce, is critical to having a workforce that’s going to continue to attract great employment opportunities,” he added.
The program, which is in its second year, takes place over the summer so that classes won’t interfere with the on-the-job learning experience. The students will work up to 20 hours per week as interns from May 29 to June 26.
TeenForce is the brainchild of several students who participated in a separate youth-based program, the Mayor’s Youth Committee. The committee is a year-long program in which students interact with local officials to learn the ins and outs of city government.
“One of the things they do at the end of that program is make pitches to the mayor for ways to improve the city,” said Giles.
“Two years ago, we had around six presentations from these great kids, and coincidentally, four of them were all recommending we do an internship program for teenagers – they identified that that’s something they would benefit from a lot.”
Shortly after, the city repurposed one of its other teenage service programs to become the Mayor’s TeenForce.
Although the service program no longer exists, the mayor explained that the students in the TeenForce will still have opportunities to do service work. This year, the service projects will focus on food insecurity in partnership with local food banks.
The students and service recipients aren’t the only ones who will reap the benefits of this year’s TeenForce program though – the businesses will too, explained Giles.
“Workforce development is something that we spend a lot of time and energy on in the city. We want employers to come to Mesa and stay in Mesa,” he said. “This [TeenForce] helps the businesses in Mesa get introduced to young people that potentially could be full-time employees.”
The mayor added that several students were offered jobs after last year’s program.
TeenForce requires that all applicants live in Mesa, or attend a school in Mesa, and are either juniors or seniors in high school.
Applications are due May 3, and can be found at mesaaz.gov/city-hall/mayor-council/mayor-john-giles/teenforce.