An innovative partnership between Milford High School, the city and a handful of local businesses is helping juniors and seniors find part-time jobs in their chosen field, while also contributing funds to their college education.
Milford High seniors Bree Wilkins and Nia Becton are learning about the medical field, while junior Omar Granado is learning about finance, marketing and customer service.
At the same time, all three students are earning a little spending money, while saving for college.
Wilkins, Becton and Granado are among the first students to participate in the Jobs For Juniors program, an innovative partnership between the high school, the city and a handful of local businesses.
"I think it's a very good program because you get a job where you earn more than just money," said Granado, who works five days a week at Dentsply Caulk. "You also get real experience in the things that you're interested in and you get to save money for when you go to college."
The program is the brainchild of William Pilecki, chairman of Milford's Workforce Development Commission.
"When I was a kid, I know I could have used some help finding an internship or a career path," Pilecki said. "So when I thought about the economic conditions that these kids are facing today, I thought it would be great if we could get something like this started here in Milford."
Through the program, which first launched last fall, the students are hired to part-time positions with local businesses that match their career interests.
The business, the student and the commission then each contribute $1 for each hour worked to a special savings account set up for each student.
Once the students graduate, they will be able to use the savings account to purchase books and supplies at college, or enroll in a technical training course.
"The students can access the $1 they contributed even if they don't go to college, because it's theirs," Pilecki said. "But to get the $2 the employer and the commission contributed, they have to submit an application that has to be approved by the city, which will then cut a check directly to the institution."
Pilecki said the program is designed to be a boon for everyone involved.
"It benefits the local employers by providing them with pre-screened job recruits and it benefits the city by showing the kids that there are good-paying jobs in their career field right here in Milford," he said. "And, of course, it benefits the students by providing them with money for school, as well as real-world job experience."
Pete Renzi, the operations manager at i.g. Burton, said the program seemed like a natural fit for the auto dealership, which participates in several job training programs.
"We need people to consider the automotive field, in all aspects of the business, from sales to servicing," he said. "Well-trained people don't often just come knocking on your door, so we try to grow our own and it's helpful to let the students know that they can find good paying jobs without moving to the big city."
Wilkins, who works three evenings a week at Premier Orthopedic Bone & Joint Care, said she's gained valuable experience that she believes will help her as she pursues a career in nursing.
"In my first couple of weeks there, I got invited to observe some surgeries in the operating room," she said. "Before I started in the program, I wouldn't have thought kids our age would have much chance of working in a doctor's office, but they always have a lot for me to do and I've learned so much."
Becton said she also has learned a lot about the medical field while working as an office assistant for Dr. G. Mitchell Edmondson, as well as crucial lessons about time management.
"It was hard at first learning how to juggle work and cheerleading and homework," she said. "I had to learn to be responsible and decide how to use my time wisely."
Those lessons have already paid dividends for Becton, who was able to use the money she earned at her part-time job to pay for her and her mother to take a three-day cruise.
"She was going to pay for us to go, but I had the money and felt like I wanted to do something for her with it," she said. "She's done so much for me, I just wanted to do something nice for her."