Forty teens have found summer employment through a program offered by Helping Hands Inc., according to the nonprofit agency.


Through a partnership between Helping Hands and the Columbia Urban League Inc., several area teens, who are either in foster care or who are considered disadvantaged, are now employed by one of 16 job sites through the Aiken Youth Leadership Development Institute employment academy program.


Helping Hands reported the program provides the participating teens with several fundamental skills, including leadership development, job-skills training, career development, college preparation and scholarships.


Aiken Youth Empowerment Community Educator Kandace Cave, who works with the program under Helping Hands, executes the job placements and manages the youth involved.


“The summer work experience and coordinating employment workshops aid youth in becoming more employment-ready for their future careers,” said Cave.


The employment academy provides under-privileged youth between 14 and 19 years of age “a gateway to a successful adulthood and orientation to the world of work,” according to Helping Hands.


Cave said before participating in the 20-hour employment-readiness academy, the teens undergo a career assessment and interest inventory through the Work Keys program. This helps decipher which teen is best fit for one of the various jobs offered by community businesses and agencies.


Since Aiken Youth Empowerment is a community-based program which strives to decrease risky behaviors in youth, Cave believes this opportunity is essential in keeping community youth focused and motivated to stay out of trouble.


The participating teens are “less likely to be involved in risky behaviors such as drugs, gang activity and sexual activity if they are busy working,” Cave said.


For more information about Columbia Urban League Inc., visit www.columbiaurbanleague.org.


For more information about Helping Hands Inc. or Aiken Youth Empowerment, a program of Helping Hands, visit www.shapingbrighterfutures.org.