Although CARE is receiving more money to expand the program this summer and serve a record number of youth, some returning employers are hiring fewer trainees.
“We had four CARE kids, but this year we just have one because there was too much supervisory work,” said Dee Anne Sneed, office support staff at MU Child Development Lab and CARE trainee supervisor. “Twenty hours is a lot,” she said, referring to the number hours per week trainees work with employers.
The Career Awareness and Related Experience, or CARE program, will add 30 trainees thanks to a $70,000 contribution from the state, providing 200 youth with job training and placement this summer. Last year, the CARE program provided jobs for about 160 at-risk youth.
“We recognized a need in Columbia to get resources to increase youth employment,” said Rick Beasley, director of the Missouri Division of Workforce Development. “Let’s put our money where our mouth is and serve more youths in collaboration.”
A vehicle for educating and training a young work force, CARE pays $5.15 per hour to at-risk children ages 14 to 18 for about 25 hours of job-related education and about 180 hours of work experience with local employers during summer months. About 100 employers are participating in this year’s program, one of the largest numbers in its 23-year history.
The Missouri Division of Workforce Development will provide the new money for CARE from the federal Workforce Investment Act program.
Stacy Dick, store manager at Michael’s, has worked with three to four CARE trainees in the past but cut to two this year.
“Two is a more reasonable number,” Dick said.
While supervisors might add to their workload by hiring CARE trainees, Elise Cook, director of End of the Rainbow Daycare, experienced a different problem.
“Two years ago a trainee stole a cell phone right off my desk,” Cook said.
Cook, who has worked as a supervisor for 11 years, said employing CARE trainees is a good way to give back to the community.
“That’s why I continue to do it after I had the problem a few years ago,” she said.
Supervisors team with CARE job coaches to monitor the progress of trainees. Each job coach is responsible for about 25 trainees and visits job sites weekly. Coaches also teach a weekly class, deliver and pick up trainees’ time sheets and hand out paychecks.
This will be Brooke Koelz’s fourth year as a CARE job coach. She said that problems with trainees include youth showing up late or not at all for classes and jobs.
“It’s a problem when kids’ interests don’t match with the job,” Koelz said.
But CARE director Kim Partney said the staff makes every effort to match children with their interests.
“During the 30-minute interview applicants are asked about their interests, where they have transportation to work and classes,” Partney said. All of these factors are taken into consideration when placing trainees with employers.
“I signed up to stay out of law trouble,” said 16-year-old Mike Adams, a first-year CARE participant. “CARE gives teenagers a job when nobody else will.”
Participants not only are searching for structured summer activities but also are using CARE as a springboard for future careers.
“CARE is a good opportunity because I should be learning how to earn my own money, a work ethic, and it’s good work experience,” said 14-year-old Shonae Bowden.
Partney said it’s hard to define what makes children “at-risk,” but CARE staff use three selection criteria and a 30-minute personal interview to determine which students will benefit most from the program. Financial background, social barriers such as health and school issues, and academic achievement are taken into consideration when hiring applicants for CARE.
More funding coincides with CARE programming changes. The educational component of the program has participants spend three hours per week in basic math or writing classes, plus a weekly life skills class with rotating topics such as drug abuse and post-secondary education.
“I want these classes to be grounded in reality and use language kids understand,” Partney said.
As a teen, Marvin Holmes, detail manager at Columbia Mitsubishi, worked two summers in the CARE program more than 20 years ago. He is happy to supervise two CARE trainees this summer as they detail and wash cars.
“However many kids they can take off the streets, that’s one less kid we lose to the streets,” Holmes said.