Naugatuck students learn job interview skills at YMCA boot camp

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The Naugatuck YMCA partnered with Naugatuck High School to offer 45 students a day of mock job interviews with several local employees at the YMCA gymnasium on March 30. Contributed

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — A program that pairs high school students with residents to teach students about job interviews is back up and running after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Naugatuck YMCA partnered with Naugatuck High School to offer 45 students a day of mock job interviews with several local employees at the YMCA gymnasium on March 30.

Michael Harte, a transition coordinator for the school district and a special education coordinator at Naugatuck High School and Naugatuck YMCA’s Operations and Fund Development Director Sherri Beck ran the event annually before the COVID-19 pandemic.

This event comes at a time where there are a high level of job openings, about 11 million in the nation, according to the Labor Department.

“I think it’s important for the students to be prepared for the workforce and the competition they may face and trying to get a position in their field of interest,” Beck said.

Harte prepared students for the day by educating them on the job hiring process. Naugatuck YMCA CEO Mark LaFortune and Beck gave tips to the students before their interviews.

Volunteers interviewed each student for about 20 minutes before giving the students feedback for about 10 minutes, Beck said.

Volunteers included therapist Marie Solazzo and attorney Andy Bottinick, both from the Naugatuck YMCA’s board of directors, Vice President of the business relationship officer Sorrina Salvatore of Ion Bank, finance director Mandy Allen-Fischer of the Naugatuck Chamber of Commerce, complete care administrator Marian Gaudioso from Glendale and branch manager Sokehan Guay from People’s United Bank. Each volunteer was able talk to the group and provide positive feedback, according to Beck.

Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess told the students to follow their passion.

“My advice to them and even deciding what jobs to apply for are to figure out their passion is and follow their passion and apply for a job in an area where they will enjoy themselves, like their job, do better at it and be passionate about it,” Hess said.

Beck said when students were in an unfamiliar place, interviewed by someone they never met and asked questions they may have not been asked, all of those factors contributed to the education of interviews.

“The more they (students) practice the better off they’ll be and by bringing them to the YMCA facing people they never met before, it’s the perfect example of practice.”

The volunteers, who were carefully chosen to ensure a positive experience for the youth, all had someone in their lives that gave them a tip that stayed with them their whole life. Every time they went to a job interview they implemented what they learned, Beck said.

Harte spoke to each student following their interview to listen and be a sounding board for their experience according to Beck.

Students were able to relax at the end of the day as they used the open gym time and enjoyed pizza with the volunteers.

“I don’t think people realize the impact they can make on someone’s’ life with just a simple conversation and a little guidance,” Beck said.

Associated Press contributed to this report.