Students Learn Job Skills at Career Olympics

How do you teach reliability? Who taught you how to fill out an application, or the proper ways to dress and act during an interview?

Students participating in the Youth Career Olympics learn those skills, then test them in competitions.

Glenville senior Prince Artis competed in the public speaking competition. His speech recounts his life experiences. He’s nervous, especially since he forgot his notes on the bus and now has to recite the speech from memory. But Artis is used to adversity.

“My family, they’re all basically criminals. I don’t want to say it in a bad way, but we kind of are,” artis said. “Mostly everybody in my family has went to jail, so it’s like, I want to change that.”

Artis credits having a job with helping him stay out of trouble, along with advice from his older brothers on what not to do.

“They want me to succeed so bad. My middle brother, he’s in jail as we speak right now, so it’s like, when he comes home, he wants to see me doing something big, changing how we live.”

He joined Youth Opportunities Unlimited, and he’s participating in the organization’s annual Youth Career Olympics. YOU is a nonprofit workforce development organization for teens and young adults.

President and CEO Craig Dorn says the competition is the culminating event in the organization’s Jobs for Ohio Graduates program.

“So 11th and 12th graders from about 12 different schools have been working all year learning about careers, and how to get a job, and how to keep a job and be successful in life,” Dorn said. “In this event, they get to demonstrate all they’ve learned.”

Events at the competition test career readiness. Artis says the public speaking competition lets him share his story with a broad audience.

“I know I’m 17, but I have a lot of wisdom behind my age that I would like to tell, but most people don’t like to listen.”

Other events test the competitors on decision making, budgeting for life, and interviewing. One competition brings together the skills learned in all of the categories and tests the students in a game-show setting.

While many businesses need employees with technical skills, Ken Patsey, executive director at Manufacturing Works, says businesses often have a hard time finding employees with the necessary soft skills.

“It’s really skills that probably help them in almost any job. It’s the ability to show up, to be reliable, to express themselves, to work together, work as teammates, and all the written skills, speaking skills, so non-technical skills,” Patsey said. “All the things that you’re required to be productive in any workforce, frankly, but manufacturing as well.”

Juniors Macallah Harrell and Valerie Calloway from Lincoln-West School of Global Studies participated in the community service competition.

“We did a total of 1,680.33 hours and 100 percent of our students participated in each community service project,” Calloway said.

“From this project, I learned a lot. One thing is to be respectful and be happy for what you got and cherish what you got, because not everyone has that,” Harrell said.

YOU President Craig Dorn says everyone who took part walks away a little richer.

“They learn how life works,” Dorn said. “You don’t always win. You don’t always get the job.”

Prince Artis didn’t take a top spot in the public speaking competition, but he takes home something that might be even more valuable.

“Everybody in my family, they’re proud of me because I decided to do something with my life instead of just going to the streets.”

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