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Columbia Urban League partners with Publix for pre-apprenticeship program

Some teens in Columbia are now employed and prepped for success in the job field after a 4-week program with Columbia Urban League and Publix Super Market.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — On Friday, some teens in Columbia got employed and prepped for success in the job field after a 4-week program. The free program prepared teens for success in an apprenticeship for ages 16 to 19 years old. 

The partnership taught the teens how to be prepared for the workforce, as well as soft and technical skills. At the end of the program, students were given the opportunity to put those skills to the test during an interview with Publix, where students were offered official job opportunities. 

"I have a job and I am able to get some workforce experience, and gain some skills, and be able to plan out my future," said 17-year-old Jayda Yarborough. "What I want to do, what goals I want to achieve. I’m so happy because I’m able to gain the skills and able to work a job I really want to work with. Publix is something I want to work with because my heart and soul is with them."

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Other students were also offered job opportunities, as well, like 17-year-old Hannah Whatley and Malcom Scott. 

"It’s such an amazing opportunity," Whatley said. "I am very happy, I’m very blessed, I’m very grateful and I can’t wait to get started!”

Scott said he was able to learn good communication skills, eye contact, not being scared and having confidence. He said he feels accomplished after the program. 

"I'm just happy for this opportunity," Scott said. "They taught us a lot of skills that I'm going to need in the future. And to get this opportunity, this job, even with the interviews, they helped us with that too.”

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For 16-year-old, Tatiana Fitts, she was able to get hired during her first day. 

"Some takeaways I have from this program, always do your research, always practice before you get an interview, and have hope in yourself and don’t be shy or scared," Fitts said. "It's been a crazy experience, It was really good for me, I really learned a lot, I've been through a lot, and I had a great outcome. 

Cheryl Humphries is the Executive Assistant for the Columbia Urban League. She said this program teaches students a lot of life skills to be able to succeed. She said for some, it's life changing. 

"So many of our young people today are being lost by the waist side," Humphries said. "It’s been proven that workforce development not only helps build their character but to allow them to be productive members of society."

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She said this is the first time the organization did a program to this extent, and she's happy to see the results. 

Latarsha Melvin is the Manager of Associate Diversity and Inclusion at Publix. She told News 19, she hopes to keep this partnership with the league and continue to hold personal growth programs in the future.

"It’s just a win-win for them, it’s a win for us, and it’s a win for our community," Melvin said. "So it’s important for us to continue our partnership that we do have with them and I'm just looking forward to do other things in the future. We've always had a positive relationship with Columbia Urban League."

Melvin said students were taught how to bag, stock, and cashier during this past week.

James T. McLawhorn said the program sends a message out to other employers. 

"This is a great opportunity for youth development," McLawhorn said. "They trained, and now they're getting job opportunities. It's a win-win for everybody. I also think it sends out a message to employers. The Urban League is the place to come if you want a productive workforce."

Melvin said the company has a tuition reimbursement program for their college staff members. She also said they are able to transfer to a different location when they go to college, if there is one near their school.  

The program was free for students and was funded and sponsored by Boeing, Midlands Technical College, and Apprenticeship Carolina. 

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