Above: Pam Neal of Prosper Portland, Scott South, Stevens Monitoring, and Summerworks intern Kasacia Blacknall

Prosper Portland partners with Worksystems Inc. (WSI) to address workforce needs across targeted industries, including clean tech manufacturing. WSI initiated the SummerWorks youth employment program in 2009 to address the youth employment crisis:  a 40% decline in summer youth employment over the last 12 years, with diverse, low-income youth experiencing employment numbers as low as 12%. Since its founding Summerworks has placed nearly 4,000 young people in summer jobs.

Why did you choose to participate in the Summerworks program?

Kasacia Blacknall: I was introduced to the Summerworks program by my advisor at school. He informed me that the program would be great to add to my resume, and that I would gain a lot of work skills.

Scott South:  I met [Prosper Portland staffer]Pam Neal through her work in promoting local clean tech manufacturers, and she suggested the Summerworks program as both a solution to our staffing needs and a good fit for our values in helping others succeed.  We have a passion for teaching others, especially young people who are open and eager to learn new things.

What experiences or skills did you learn from your time in the program?

KB: When I initially started this internship, my major in school was Dental Hygiene. I had zero interest in business and accounting, so going into this internship I was nervous on how I would do. Thankfully Susan Brown, Controller at Stevens Water, was patient with me and taught me the basics of business and accounting.

Why do you want to support youth to be engaged in the industry?

SS: We believed the Summerworks program was a good fit in meeting our passion to expand the inquisitive minds of students and our needs for administrative support.  We were not wrong. Kasacia came with a desire to learn new things, and with an outstanding personality.

Did it change any of your future plans?

KB: During my internship Susan and Scott both inspired me to change my major.  I am now majoring in Accounting. I have learned so much about the different aspects of business, and I am very thankful for their mentorship.  I enjoy working for this amazing company, and I am very thankful for the experience that Summerworks has given me.

SS: When the summer ended, everyone really liked Kasacia’s personality and help, so we asked her to stay on in a part-time role while she attends college.

Would you participate in the future? Would you recommend this program to others?

SS: The Summerworks program has proven to be outstanding for business and students wanting to learn and grow.

KB: Absolutely! I think it gives students an opportunity to learn real job skills. These opportunities open the doors to future employment, and the experience will be something students can take with them forever.