By CRYSTAL LEWIS BROWN. Fort Jackson LeaderMarch 11, 2010
FORT JACKSON, SC -- Matthew Welch was ready to start his job hunt. He wore brown corduroy pants and a freshly pressed shirt topped with a sweater vest. Tucked under his arm was a folder containing a copy of his resume and a list of references.
Though he was dressed and prepared like any job seeker, what made him different than some others was his age -- he is 14 years old.
Matthew and his father, Greg Welch, joined hundreds of other teens and parents at Saturday's Teen Job and Education Fair at the Solomon Center. Some teens clustered around tables getting job information and asking questions, while some filled out job applications on the spot.
Welch, a military retiree and DA civilian, said he and his son attended the job fair to search for jobs that would accommodate his son's age.
"We hear that they had summer hiring for teens, (but) I didn't think they would have jobs for 14 year olds," Welch said. "So when they sent the (information) out saying they had jobs for 14 year olds, we were excited."
Matthew volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club last summer, but this summer, he is hoping to find a paying job.
Finding a job was important so he could "learn early on how to get money and save it," Matthew said.
"I thought it was a good learning experience because later in life, I will have to do this," Matthew said about attending the job fair. "I'll probably look back on this and say I was glad I went."
Some of the participating agencies included the Fort Jackson Nonappropriated Funds Human Resource Office; Boys and Girls Club of America; Fort Jackson Teen Hired! Apprenticeship Program; Lander University; Midlands Technical College; and Midlands Teens WIA Program. Two new agencies came on board this year, SCANA and Project Hope, which offered job opportunities for teens with special needs.
Barbara Martin, with the Fort Jackson Employment Readiness Program, said the fair was a success.
"The purpose of the Teen Job and Education Fair was to provide teens a hands-on experience to meet potential employers, complete job applications, practice interviewing and learn about volunteer opportunities and obtain information about some of the local colleges," she said.
"Resources were also available for families of specials needs, scholarship information and setting up savings accounts. These great hands-on opportunities gave young job seekers confidence and direction in helping them land their first job."
Martin said 250 military teens and 150 civilian teens and their parents attended the fair, which is held annually.
She said her office partnered with local schools to get the information out to students.
"Having it on a Saturday also allowed all students to participate," she said. "In the past, it was on a weekday and all teens were not out, so only a couple of school districts could participate."
Martin said that the employers at the fair accepted hundreds of applications.
"Chick-fil-a actually interviewed job seekers on the spot and said at least half of them will be called in for a second interview," she said. "The Boys and Girls Club of America said that they actually ran out of application forms. Even with the large unemployment figures for South Carolina, it was great to see that some of the participants will see job offers in the next couple of weeks."
As for Matthew, his father is hopeful that the Blythewood Middle School student is one of those who gets a job offer for this summer.
"I'm very hopeful that he will get a job," he said. "We can teach him at home, but getting a paycheck and getting that experience of getting up (and) going to a job is invaluable."