On Tuesday morning, William Bogans, a 17-year-old Woodville Tompkins high-school student, didn’t yet know much about the work he would be doing with Collins Construction. Bogans had yet to meet his future employer at the kick-off event for the city’s Summer 500 internship program.
Still, he said he was looking forward to the opportunity as just one of about 300 other students that more than 100 private employers have agreed to hire at their own expense through July 29.
“I like going into the unknown,” Bogans said.
Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach and Alderwoman Carol Bell didn’t quite know what they were getting into when they announced in January their intention to provide job training and life skills to 500 young people ages 14-17.
On Tuesday, their vision became a reality, however, as the students and employers participating in the inaugural program gathered at Savannah State University’s Tiger Arena less than six months after planning began.
While addressing the crowd Tuesday, DeLoach described the program as a long-held desire he has had to provide more job opportunities to the city’s young people.
“Lo and behold, with God’s grace, we have been able to put this together,” he said. “We have to invest in our youth if you want anything in return.”
The initial goal was to get 500 young people employed, but Bell said that she was satisfied with 300 students getting jobs during the first year, considering the short amount of time there was to put it together.
“By any stretch of the imagination, this was successful,” she said.
During the nine-week program, participating students are required to invest at least 32 hours per week, split between direct work experience as needed by their mentoring employer and soft skill seminars, which will be taught on Fridays.
The program also includes volunteer ambassadors who serve as liaisons between the students and their employers to make sure everything is going smoothly.
Employers are investing about $2,304 to cover the students’ pay during the program, while the city ended up paying about $60,000 to cover administrative costs.
Chatham County has also approved 20 internship positions for the Summer 500 program.
Industries covered include landscaping, engineering, public relations, manufacturing and health care.
Derrick Sams Jr., a 17-year-old Johnson High student, said he was looking forward to working with the environmental service’s company EnviroVac over the summer.
“It will help me with my resume and college education,” Sams said.
EnviroVac President Kevin Jackson, who helped recruit the business participants for the Summer 500 program, told the students about his first job as a dishwasher. He wanted to own the restaurant one day and that drive led him to the success he has achieved with his business, Jackson said. Now, it was their opportunity to do something great, he said.
“I don’t care where you all have been,” he said. “It’s where you are going to go now — what you are going to do with this opportunity.”
The city is also preparing to soon begin another job training program that offers employment opportunities for young people — ages 14-17 — who have criminal backgrounds. After 59 students graduated in 2015, this year’s Savannah Pre-Apprentice Program has had 450 students apply for the program that runs from June 6 to July 29. There is a waiting list, and it was not clear Tuesday how many of the applicants would actually be employed. The county has also approved 20 internship positions for the program.
In addition to the summer jobs being provided by the city and county, more than 25 partner businesses have agreed to provide participants with job training, life skills, mentoring and academic assistance.
The match day event is scheduled for 10 a.m. June 13 at the Savannah Civic Center’s Johnny Mercer Theatre.