Youth employment program offers health care educationWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
About 40 area teens have been learning about the health care industry this summer as part of ProMedica’s Summer Youth Employment Program.
At Mayor Mike Bell’s encouragement, ProMedica hired the teens for a variety of jobs in the eight-week program. Their jobs included tasks in groundskeeping, patient care, pediatrics, the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), transportation and even the surgical area (sterilizing equipment). Seven of the teens were referred by The Source, a local employment service. The teens, almost all from metro Toledo, worked 24 hours a week and received minimum wage.
The teens, 16-19, were thoroughly screened and ProMedica received more than 120 applications, said Wendy Papenfuss, the director of workforce planning at ProMedica.
The program was celebrated Aug. 1 at Ottawa Park. The teens were fed CityBBQ and listened to remarks by Randy Oostra, CEO of ProMedica, and Bell. Many of the teens’ supervisors also attended.
“They’ve fallen in love with these kids. They don’t want them to leave,” Papenfuss said.
One of those supervisors is Connie Bahls, operations manager, who oversaw three teens, including Start High School student Caleb Self. Self is responsible for cleaning up the Renaissance Lobby this summer. He said the job, his first at Toledo Hospital, has taught him values like hard work and responsibility.
“[Visitors] say the place has never looked so good,” Bahls said.
Papenfuss and Oostra said they hope the summer program exposed the teens to the health care industry.
“It’s good for the youth as far as getting exposure to health care careers. I think it’s good as far as thinking about our future pipeline of employees. I think it’s a great thing to help support the city in these economic times,” Oostra said.
Jalyssa Parker and Saveenah Allen, both recent graduates of Horizon Science Academy Toledo, said the jobs have impacted their career goals.
“Honestly, we’re young so we wouldn’t really get a job in health care, so for us to like preview [health care jobs] is a great experience,” said Parker, who used to want to be a veterinarian and now wants to be a nurse.
Parker worked in the NICU. “I got to feed, hold, everything dealing with babies,” she said.
Both Allen and Parker said they formed bonds with patients and loved their experiences.
“When I would come back and they weren’t there, I’d be like, ‘Where’s so and so?’” Parker said, adding that she was happy when the patients were released, even if she missed them.
Allen, who will attend University of Toledo in the fall, worked in pediatrics. She had already been volunteering at ProMedica before she was hired for the summer.
When asked if she had a favorite moment in the program, she replied, “The whole thing, I just enjoyed it all.”
Papenfuss said the jobs also taught the teens some basic life skills. “What we’ve found is most of them didn’t have bank accounts so we’ve had to help them set up bank accounts so they’ve learned some very basic payroll and bank account skills,” she said.
She said ProMedica would definitely consider having the program again next summer and even expanding it. Papenfuss also said ProMedica is trying to hire 12 of the teens who already graduated.
Oostra said early jobs like these offer valuable lessons.
“We all look back on our experiences and those first jobs and the impact they’ve had on our lives. Having to get up and go to work every day, interact with people, dress appropriately, those are skills that if you don’t have that opportunity in life to be able to go to work and have those jobs and interact with people, you may not be able to learn those skills,” he said.