By Monique Camarena / Triplicate Intern

A program giving high school students a taste of what it’s like to work in the job field ends this week. The E3 Program, which stands for education, experience, and employment, is a four-week or six-week experience that teaches youth how jobs work.

Del Norte County Office of Education and the Del Norte Workforce Center have partnered together to create E3.

“E3 is a summer work experience program. It was something that we started last year … for high school juniors and seniors to give them an introduction into the world of work. We place the youth that are with us into a local business or organization to gain some work experience,” said Christy Hernandez, co-creator of E3.

Tony Fabricius, co-creator of E3 and principal at Sunset High School, brought an idea to Hernandez about youth working in the community.

“Tony Fabricius came to us. He was the one that got us all together and made this happen. He was given the task by the superintendent of schools to put together some sort of … internship program, and that was when he contacted me at the Workforce Center and Building Healthy Communities to see how we could make it happen,” Hernandez said.

The number of youth participants this summer has almost doubled compared to the prior year, which had 17.

“Thirty E3 kids attended the boot camp, and we were able to place 24 at an E3 placement, one got a job on his own and one was placed with another program through the Workforce Center, STEPS (Summer Training & Employment Program for Students),” Hernandez said. “So that only left four kids that didn’t get a placement/job.”

The 30 youth participated in a weeklong boot camp where they discussed work readiness, interview tips, customer service, cash handling, creating resumes, soft skills communication and showing up, according to Hernandez.

“We hear great things from our employers and organizations, especially the returning ones. The worksites that were in our very first pilot year … liked it so much that they wanted to take on more youth again this year, which was great,” said Hernandez. “I think all of them would have come back if they didn’t already fill positions with the youth that they had last year, which is a good thing for them. It’s just we’d hope that we’d have more spots this year for our youth. If we had more employers we would have been able to place all 30 kids that went through the boot camp.”

“It’s hard to not get a kid placed, but at least they still got a ton of skills by going through the boot camp, and they still got paid $100 for that week,” said Robyn Parker, an E3 facilitator and teacher at Sunset High School. “So even though … they didn’t get their month-long job after that … they did still at least get a lot out of that week and make money for being there that week, which is important.”

“The purpose of E3 is to give our young people that experience in a job, to know what it is like to have a regular job — going to work, communicating with coworkers and supervisors, showing up on time,” said Hernandez.

Parker and another E3 facilitator and Sunset High teacher, Jessica Phillips, shared what they enjoy the most about working with this program.

To Parker, the best thing about working with E3 is “connecting employers to our kids so that employers see what teenagers today have to offer, and teenagers can see what jobs there really are that are local here besides the … typical ones a teenager knows about. Most kids don’t know about going and working for the city or the Workforce Center. They know about McDonald’s, but they don’t know the vast opportunities that are here for them. That’s my favorite part. I also love visiting employers and seeing past students and past participants of the program and other programs … that do the same thing, in permanent employment in good jobs where they have benefits and good pay.”

Phillips said her favorite part about working with E3 is that “the employers get to see the quality of young people we have in the community. I think sometimes that is misrepresented and doesn’t get … the quality of kids that we have here available for employment; it doesn’t get the exposure that it needs.”

For Hernandez, “The best part is too see our youth actually either get hired on by that employer or because of this experience they are able to get jobs, where before, not having any work experience and just volunteering here and there … didn’t allow them to get their foot in the door. That’s what’s the best part for me — seeing that our young people are now out there working and having jobs.”

Many local businesses and organizations have partnered with the Del Norte Workforce Center to provide jobs for the youth. Some of them were new to the program and many returned from last year. These include the Penny Saver Inn, Del Norte Fairgrounds, Del Norte Childcare Council, Hiouchi Cafe, Hiouchi Hamlet, Hiouchi Hotel, UIHS, Requa Inn, IT Department at the DN Office of Education, Wild Rivers Community Foundation, Open Door Clinic, California Auto Image, Del Norte Triplicate, MorJon Auto Parts, Elk Valley Rancheria, 6 Degrees of Celebration, Marlo’s Restaurant and the Chamber of Commerce’s Visitor Center.

“For our employers we ask… them to participate and be a… host for one our youth to teach them soft skills and hard skills within the job that they are placed in. Also a big ask of the employers is a contribution which equals the straight wage of each youth…,” said Hernandez. “That is a huge thing to ask from our small businesses, our organizations, our non-profits. But we did have a lot step up and add to what we had last year which was awesome to see. If we can get even more, that would be great. I know that’s… one of the big parts of being able to or not being able to is making that contribution. Because we’re a non-profit it could potentially be a tax write-off, which is great. It’s a big chunk of money for some employers… but we did have quite a few… step up and say, ‘I want to be a part of this, I want to help our community, this is building our future workforce.’ I think it was great to see many new ones come on this year.

“It’s important to get the word out. I know we’ll get more young people next year; it’s just going to continue to grow. The main thing is trying to get more employers on board. If we can do that, then we can place even more youth out in the community,” Hernandez said.

“Right now we’re receiving a grant through Building Healthy Communities to help with some of the cost of the program. We’re always looking to see what other grants we can get to continue this because we want to grow this and have it every year, if not have it year round. That is the dream in the far future,” Hernandez said. “We’re trying any way to make it happen every year and to keep on growing it.”

“I’m really excited that the program has grown so much from last year to this year. I hope that it can continue to grow,” said Parker.