Teens earn cash while learning tech at summer camps

YouthForce offers hands-on skills training
Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 6:47 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Teens who earn a spot at a tech-based summer camp could earn cash for learning job skills. YouthForce camps offer welding, engineering, culinary and criminal justice skills. High school aged participants must pass an interview process for a limited number of spots in hand-on camps in East Tennessee. This is a project organized by Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley in cooperation with Pellissippi State Community College, funded by a state contract.

All interested participants can likely earn a spot in virtual, online training for overall job skills such as how to be successful in a job interview. YouthForce Assistant Director Xavier Bridges said, “We try to offer than an opportunity at least to get some soft skills training so that they learn the level of communication, they learn interview skills, they learn workplace challenges, so they try to get those skills.”

Past participant Caleah Flemmings got a referral as middle schooler to take part in a previous cybersecurity camp. She said it set her on the path to interests in technical fields. “I kind of had the impression of, oh, I was gonna sit in the classroom and just kind of learn about what a computer is and how it works. But I got to do a lot of hands-on stuff, which that was really fun!”

Flemmings said she had the opportunity to take a computer apart and put it back together, as well as learning about 3D printers. “We actually made stuff with the 3D printers, like little rocket ships.”

Bridges said after an interview process, candidates selected to attend the camps have the opportunity to earn $8 per hour. YouthForce wants to provide maximum motivation for youth to spend their time learning skills. “There’s often times where we find kids will not want to be a part of something because they are missing work. Didn’t have to miss out on that experience that was going to help them long-term because they are getting that pay.”

Technical camps for engineering and computing are run by engineer Andy Polnicki, who’s in charge of the Megalab at Pellissippi’s campus at Strawberry Plains Pike and I-40. He promotes the scientific process and analytical thinking with projects created in a fun way, such as rockets built from bottles.

“Part of the summer camp is to let the students learn some knowledge and then fail. As they fail when they’re trying to determine how much water to put in the rocket, they begin to realize through trial and error that there is a right amount of water and a right amount of air in the rocket,” he said.

YouthForce Summer Camps Include:

  • Cosmetology June 15 - 17
  • Culinary June 22 - 25
  • Raspberry Pi July 13 - 15 & also June 20 - 22 (must attend both weeks)
  • Welding July 13 - 15
  • Nursing July 20 - 22
  • Criminal Justice July 20 - 22
  • Engineering July 13 - 15

The camps are an effort to inspire teens to realize lots of possibilities for more education and a promising future career. Flemmings is at a point where she’s interested in several technical fields. “I’ve been most interested in aerodynamics, coding, computer science...and zoology.”

“These are opportunities that are really gonna pay off long-term,” said Bridges.

For rising 9th - 12th graders who want to apply now for spot, they can text Xavier Bridges for an interview at 865-310-7929.

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