Week 4 was very much a turning point for me, both at the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and out and about in Durham. Our work at OEWD thus far culminated into three days of pre-employment training at Durham Tech Community College for the YouthWork interns. Throughout the three days, the interns learned about financial literacy, appropriate work attire, resume building, to name a few workshops that were offered. Fortunately, the interns’ responses to pre-employment training were very much positive, reaffirming our view that preparing the interns, many of them for their first paid jobs ever, was well worth the time and effort.
As the last two weeks of our time at OEWD approach, I began to ponder about how we could make the YouthWork Internship Program more sustainable even after we DukeEngage interns leave. Due to limited resources, the program understandably gives priority to new interns each summer, rather than those who have interned through YouthWork in the past, since it aims to expand its reach to the largest number of people. However, I began to consider whether OEWD could explore options that would extend the summer experience such as offering periodic professional development training sessions during the school year and continuing the services of counselors and job coaches beyond the summer. I feel that the internship program has not served its purpose if it concludes just with the internship itself, but should help young people develop a pathway to career development that stretches beyond the six weeks that they work. I look forward to delving more deeply into possible ways that a year-round mentorship program could be implemented in the next two weeks.
On Wednesday, we visited the American Underground, an entrepreneurial working space for local startups and just one of seven Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hubs in North America. As we toured the building, I could see that the open layout of the building would easily facilitate open communication among the various entrepreneurs represented there. The first companies in the tobacco and textile industries in Durham were very entrepreneurial for their time and I am glad to see that this entrepreneurial spirit has since remained an integral part of the city. The next day, it was great to see how OEWD was playing a role in supporting many small businesses like the ones that we had a glimpse of at the American Underground. We OEWD interns had the opportunity to participate in a bimonthly meeting of the Small Business Advisory Committee (SBAC), a branch within the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. All of the members serve on the committee on a voluntary basis and offer programs and services targeted to small businesses, such as financing, management skills training, and business counseling.
Although I had initially perceived Durham to be somewhat stuck in the past, I could finally see that it is rather a very forward-thinking city. Upon first glance, the exterior of many Durham buildings is misleading in that they seem like old tobacco warehouses and textile mills and who would guess that the interior is comprised of creatively redesigned spaces. I view Durham’s economy in the same light- one that seems outdated at first on the outside, but once I peel back the layers, I can witness the city’s commitment to moving forward- in its future employees and small businesses.