video In June 2012, 25 teens gathered in a small conference room at PHMC’s 260 South Broad Street location to talk about their dreams. One spoke of wanting to travel the world. Another hopes to start his own restaurant. Yet another mentioned wanting to attend medical school after college. Over the summer, these teens got the opportunity to jump-start their career readiness with jobs at PHMC that provided them with real-world experience.

In April 2012, Deborah McMillan, Elaine Colbert and Rachael Kirzner, of PHMC's social services, received funding for PHMC from Philadelphia Youth Network to bring the WorkReady program to PHMC. “Our hope is that the teens can use this experience as a launch-pad for their goals, careers and futures,” says McMillan. A video the teens created shows that they are well on their way.

Preparation and planning for WorkReady began in April to ensure that the program would operate smoothly. Through WorkReady, which kicked off with orientation in June, students received a range of potential positions. Colbert, who works with 100 Philadelphia school students every year, selected the students who worked at PHMC and matched them to their jobs based on interests and talents. “A few students needed a second chance, most needed a first chance. But I knew all of them would benefit from it,” she recalls. Through collaboration with Melissa Fox, PHMC’s managing director of health, who reached out to senior administrators at PHMC, 80 percent of the students were placed at PHMC’s headquarters on South Broad Street in Philadelphia while the remainder worked at its New Pathways Projects, HELP Philadelphia, Mary Howard Health Center, Rising Sun Health Center, Metropolitan Career Center and Urban Garden project locations. “We created a microcosm of what working in the real world would be like,” says McMillan.

On Fridays, the teens gathered together for workshops that provided helpful workplace preparation advice for students, from interviewing skills to professional attire. “The WorkReady program gave youth the opportunity to see what the workforce is about, learn 21st-century work skills, meet people and be around positive people who gave guidance and hope,” says Colbert. “I’m positive that everyone learned something.”

At the conclusion of the program in early August, the students presented a video documenting their experience, created under the guidance of several college students, also participants in the program, who assumed leadership roles among the teens. It features interviews with the students and their supervisors. “I’ve seen the youth become more mature, self-confident, outgoing and more comfortable in the workplace setting,” says Colbert. “The video definitely expressed that.”

Click here to watch clips from the WorkReady students's video.

Sissy Troy, a WorkReady teen who held a summer position with the PHMC Communication team, contributed to this article.