MassHire Holyoke Celebrates Success of Youth Summer Jobs Program

HOLYOKE — More than 200 young people have participated in MassHire Holyoke’s summer employment program. On Wednesday, MassHire held a picnic on August 10 at Community Field to thank young workers and 70 partner companies and organizations.

Yaritza Cruz-Baez, director of youth services at MassHire, said companies help young people develop job skills and prepare for careers. The program provides employment opportunities for young people between the ages of 14 and 20.

Many participants transition from middle school to high school, a critical time to focus on academic and career paths. “The goal of the program is to provide our young people with career preparation,” Cruz-Baez said.

MassHire runs a week of training before participants start their jobs, which includes office etiquette and expectations. Then the program tries to match them with a desired career, whether working in a traditional industry or developing entrepreneurial skills.

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Holyoke Medical Center hired 12 young people who worked in various departments, some of whom teamed up with medical staff. “They’re able to gain real-life experiences,” Cruz-Baez said, a way to determine if a field was right for them.

She added that the program helps eliminate the “first job trail” by pairing participants with peer leaders, who act as guides throughout the process.

The program received funding from YouthWorks, the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency, and a Shannon Fellowship.

For 14-year-old Eliani Robles, working at Holyoke Medical Center was her foray into the working world. She worked with the hospital’s financial advisors, putting her in direct contact with patients and the public.

Robles said her duties included paperwork, answering phone calls and speaking with patients, which helped her deal with her shyness. “It helped me connect with people and connect with others,” she said.

The program gave Robles insight into the career she wanted to pursue. She will be entering ninth grade at Holyoke High School’s Dean Campus in a few weeks. “It gives me an idea of ​​working in the medical field,” she said.

Holyoke Community Charter School has hired four youth workers this season. Claritza Coriano-Baez said the young women were eager to learn more about the education profession. “To see some of our students be part of this program was amazing,” Coriano-Baez said.

The group did office work, helped solve technology problems, and provided coverage for the school’s summer program. “They have a bit of everything,” Coriano-Baez said. She wanted the young people to feel relaxed, emphasizing that it was a learning experience.

The group started with simple tasks such as grading and learned new skills over the following weeks. “If they were done with a project, they would ask for more. We were happy with the girls we had this year,” she said.

Moises Silva Jr., a YouthWorks peer leader, started the program at age 14. Now 18, he graduated from Holyoke High School and will study HVAC systems at Springfield Technical Community College.

Silva’s first job was a janitorial job at Sullivan Elementary School, continuing the program until she was hired as a peer leader this summer.

“I even worked with MassHire during the pandemic, working on social media management,” he said. “It was a very good experience, and I experienced a lot of firsts. It’s good to try new things and embark on a different career.

Silva plans to complete the HVAC systems degree and obtain a real estate license, using both skills to rehabilitate properties for sale.

Ryan H. Bowman