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Q & A with Ellen Zinkiewicz


We sat down with NCAC’s Youth & Community Services Director, Ellen Zinkiewicz, to discuss youth in the workforce, upcoming initiatives and career readiness skills.

What has been a major obstacle in youth finding jobs?

There are a few hindrances that are affecting the youth that are actively seeking employment. The age group most affected is 14 – 16. This range has youth that are the most eager to gain employment, however they are faced with obstacles such as child labor law restrictions, liability issues, and internal/corporate policy.

What can youth do to still participate in the workforce if they are having difficulty gaining employment?

Volunteering is a great alternative! Also, looking for opportunities to expand their networks–the people they know who might know about possible jobs–will help them gain exposure for when new jobs may arise.

Are there any upcoming projects you are most excited about?

Yes! We are very excited about Mayor Megan Barry’s, Opportunity Now. This is a large scale youth employment initiative that the city of Nashville hasn’t seen before. Opportunity Now will not only provide youth with income, but it will also develop soft skills, expose them to a wider world, teach important life lessons and allow for connections to be created with adults outside of their normal day to day (i.e. relatives, family friends, etc.). Youth having extra income is also not only great for both themselves and the community, but additional income will allow for the youth to contribute to household bills, meet their own entertainment needs and become a greater impact on the service (retail, entertainment) industry.

What skills do you find necessary for youth to have in regards to career readiness?

I would break this down into two main categories: Organizational and Communication. Organizational skills consist of things like how to organize ones time and working through a plan to get your tasks done in an efficient manner. Communication skills include the ability to talk to strangers and basic human interaction skills. These are things that are needed at any level, whether it’s your first job or you are the CEO. And these skills are not always learned at home or in school. I’m a firm believer in learning to work by working!

Ellen is in her 19th year with NCAC. She had started with the agency as an intern in 1998 and transitioned to working with youth in 2001.

Learn more about NCAC’s available youth services.