Tia Preston, a 2021 Bainbridge High School graduate, will spend her summer earning a paycheck working for Island Volunteer Caregivers, a nonprofit that works to connect volunteers with elderly residents and persons with disabilities.
The summer job was ideal for Preston, who was looking to work for an organization that helped the community and brought Bainbridge Islanders together.
The job, which pays $17 an hour, came thanks to a new program created this year by Bainbridge Youth Services and the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce. It pairs teen and young adult residents on the island with businesses and nonprofits in need of their skills for eight weeks of mentorship and professional development.
"The job that BYS matched me with is perfect," said Preston, who previously volunteered for Bainbridge Youth Services. She said that her work with the organization drove her to apply.
Other employers who hired students through the program this summer are the Bainbridge Community Foundation, Scrappy Art Lab, Helpline House, Kids Discovery Museum (KiDiMu) and Tour Bainbridge.
Upon completion of the program, each employee will earn an additional $500 dollar bonus funded by donations from the Rotary Club of Bainbridge Island and "Breath Cafe," wellness class put on by a Bainbridge resident.
Tapping youth workers
The idea to provide jobs summer jobs to young island residents isn't new for Bainbridge Youth Services, which previously provided summer internships with local employers for high school students.
What is new is BYS' partnership with the chamber as well as offering the bonuses.
Courtney Oliver, executive director of BYS, said the idea for Work Ready Bainbridge began because she felt like the old summer internship program could have reached more Bainbridge residents and businesses than the internship program was doing at the time.
Oliver said that BYS's background in youth outreach and the chamber's connections to island businesses seemed like the perfect partnership, and so she reached out in 2021 to Stefan Goldby, chamber president.
The program's goal is for young people to grow skills through working with their employer on complex, large-scale projects, Oliver said. Additionally, employees learn professional skills like resume-building and interview preparation through their employer and through workshops provided through BYS.
From the perspective of the chamber, the program is an opportunity to bolster the Bainbridge Island economy, especially in light of a nationwide worker shortage — a shortage that has not spared Bainbridge Island.
"It's very obvious in the food service and hospitality industries," Goldby said, "but the shortage really runs throughout Bainbridge's economy."
Keeping young residents on Bainbridge
Goldby said the chamber also sees the program as a way of motivating young Bainbridge residents to stay in Bainbridge as they seek summer employment. On a long-term scale, the program may result in more young people staying in Bainbridge Island as adults because of the connections they've built with local businesses, Goldby said.
Corinne Wollfe, executive director of KiDiMu, agreed with Goldby's sentiment.
Work Ready Bainbridge matched KiDiMu with Hanah Deets, a Bainbridge High student, who will help staff market and plan KiDiMu's summer and fall events. Wolffe said that KiDiMu crafted Deets' position as outreach-based, knowing that Bainbridge Island has few opportunities for students to learn marketing skills in a smaller economy like Bainbridge.
Oliver said BYS and the chamber hope to double the program's enrollment of employers in 2023. Ideally, Oliver added, more money will also be raised to supplement the $17 per hour wage for smaller businesses and nonprofits.
This item has been changed since it was first published to correct the name of Tour Bainbridge.
This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: Bainbridge program matches youth with employers for a summer of growth