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Denver Mayor to Teens: Don’t Just Get a Job, Start a Career

In its third year, Denver's Summer Youth Employment Program focuses on helping high schoolers get an early start on building their future careers.

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Denver’s newly re-elected mayor isn’t telling the city’s youth to get a job this summer. He wants them to find a career. “From day one, I have talked about getting our youth ready for our future economy,” says Mayor Michael Hancock.

Now in its third year, the Summer Youth Employment Program is expanding to include five new, paid career academies targeting qualified, low-income youths ages 14 to 18. The industries of focus—renewable industries, advanced manufacturing, information technology, entrepreneurship, and customer service—have been identified as those poised for continued growth in Colorado. Each career academy will last four weeks and result in a $200 to $250 stipend for each of the individuals in the program.

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For the first time, students in the 14- and 15-year-old age range—kids who typically have a hard time finding employment during summer months due to a lack of job experience and driver’s licenses—will get a chance to enter the program. These academies not only provide the city’s youth with a reason to wake up before 11 a.m., but also an RTD bus pass, hands-on experience, and lessons in career basics. The program’s first week focuses on helping participants develop skills like resume writing, interview tactics, financial literacy, and work ethics training. Hancock says it’s opportunities like these that guided him as a student growing up in Northeast Denver. “I spent time interning with former Mayor Federico Peña,” Hancock says. “That hands-on experience led me to the mayor’s office.”

(Watch: Mayor Hancock talks about his second term, Denver’s growth, and family)

High school juniors and seniors aren’t left out either. In the 16- to 18-year-old program, each participant spends a week exploring career options and learning life skills before being selected for a paid position with a local business, nonprofit, or government agency for up to 160 hours over the summer. In past years, companies and organizations like the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Ritz-Carlton, the Women’s Foundation, and Colorado Wildlife accepted students.

For Hancock, providing these opportunities to Denver’s youth now will not only positively affect them as individuals, but will improve the Mile High City’s economy for years to come. “As we talk to future employers about coming to Denver, we can tell them we are currently preparing their future workforce.”

For more information on the application process, visit denvergov.org/youthservices.

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Follow assistant editor Lindsey R. McKissick on Twitter @LindseyRMcK.

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