Growing up, I always wanted to pay for my own things so that I could get whatever I wanted. I hated hearing, "no, you can't have that," so I was determined that when I was old enough, I would start working and earning things on my own. Needless to say, I was a kid and I didn’t have the most comprehensive grasp on what it required to actually earn a living wage.  It was early on when I learned the importance of experience, education and connections. Anyone who has tried to land that first job with zero experience and no formal training understands the struggle. We expect individuals to have experience before we can hire them, but they can’t get hired without experience. It’s an unfortunate catch 22 that many of the youth I work with confront on a daily basis. That is why I am so passionate about the work I do at Youth and Family Services with Urban Career Pathways.

Urban Career Pathways is a program located at the TAY Academy in Escondido that provides opportunities to gain meaningful training and paid work experience in high-demand jobs. My position as the Business Services Representative allows our program to provide first-hand work experience to folks who may be in the same position I found myself in so many years ago. The youth we work with need support and guidance in order to discover what they want to do, understand how to get there, and gain the tools necessary to become self-sufficient.

Workforce development programs like Urban Career Pathways are essential for the TAY (Transitional Age Youth) population. Large amounts of information regarding employment is excluded from typical high school curriculums, so having access to information that helps our participants remain competitive in the job market is vital.

The pandemic has brought with it an onslaught of challenges for the participants I work with, the growing rates of unemployment and lack of access to technology have made it extremely difficult for our youth to pursue their next steps. During the times when we’ve had to close our physical doors, many of our participants did not have computers or internet access and were even more limited in searching for jobs or furthering their training and education. However, the light in the midst of all this darkness is that we are seeing booms in certain job markets; jobs are out there, companies are hiring, and work needs to get done. Adapting and finding creative ways to link our talent pool to these businesses presents a huge opportunity to our participants seeking employment. And this is where the magic happens! It’s truly amazing to watch the evolution of an active participant and see their self-confidence grow when they are given the opportunity to work.

During the interview for my very first job my soon to be manager asked me why it had been so difficult for me to find a job. I answered, "it's probably because I have no experience." He responded, "You're right, and I'm going to give you your chance to get some." The young people I work with need that chance and Urban Career Pathways is here to offer it to them.

*If you are a business or organization interested in partnering with Urban Career Pathways, contact Art Samot at [email protected]

Art Samot is the Business Services Representative for the Urban Career Pathways program at Youth and Family Services. He is passionate about supporting youth in their personal growth journey and celebrating their accomplishments when they tap into their amazing potential. When Art isn’t serving young people, he enjoys travelling and is often creating videos and taking photos (hopefully at someplace new). During Covid-19, he has been practicing self-care through safe and “socially/physically distant” outdoor exploration and travel.