A room at Polar Beverages in Worcester was filled to capacity Tuesday afternoon as dozens of people joined the Job1 Youth Employment Coalition in recognizing three local businesses for their efforts in youth employment.
Imperial Distributors of Auburn, Lampin Corp. of Uxbridge and Holy Trinity Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Worcester received potted plants in honor of their work preparing local teens to enter the workforce.
Citing high unemployment numbers for youths, Jeff Turgeon, executive director of the Central Massachusetts Workforce Investment Board, which helped establish the coalition – a partnership of area schools, higher education and youth employment programs – said, "We recognize that we have to do a better job preparing our youth if we want to have a strong economy." He said he hoped that the first Growing & Readying Our Workforce (GROW) Awards would be an inspiration to other businesses to reach out to youth.
The event was held at Polar because of the company's strong support of youth development, the coalition said. Executive Vice President and Treasurer Chris Crowley spoke of former interns who went on to become full-time employees at the beverage company. He said there are many ways for employers to assist young people, including offering internships, job-shadowing and facility tours.
Glen Eidson of the Fieldstone School in Worcester, who nominated Holy Trinity, read excerpts from papers students wrote after spending days doing clinical work at the nursing home, expressing their gratitude and what they took from the experience.
"This is so important," Eidson said. "My students benefit from this more than I could ever say."
John O'Brien, president and CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care was honored for his long-term commitment to youth employment. The coalition said that under O'Brien's leadership, UMass has been "at the forefront of youth employment by providing hundreds of youth each year with an opportunity to gain real life work experience."
O'Brien said UMass has about 13,500 employees and that will grow by about 300 this summer.
He said that as a child, he had nine siblings and a father who died young. Working at a grocery store helped O'Brien gain work ethic.
"I knew what that was like to have role models to help me along," he said.
O'Brien said it's gratifying to see how his efforts have helped other teens find paths for the future.
"We do grow our own," he said. "This is a business decision for us, and it's been a really great one."
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