Durham Bulls staff coach students on preparing for work

January 29, 2018
Durham Bulls staff share tips on getting a job and keeping it.

“I never thought about all the things that went on behind the scenes at a baseball game.”

“I didn’t know about how to present myself at a job interview.”

“Coming here gives us a better chance at getting a job.”

These were among comments made by Durham alternative school students attending a Jan. 24 career-readiness event hosted by the Durham Bulls, a key partner in Made in Durham’s work to prepare all Durham youth for careers.

Seventeen students from Achievement Academy of Durham, Durham Public Schools’ Performance Learning Center (PLC) and LIFE Skills Foundation heard from four senior Bulls staff who shared their personal career-path stories and offered job-seeking advice, then led students on a ball park tour.

“Getting the kids here helps break down barriers many of them face in getting jobs, such as how to talk to adults and ask hard questions about getting jobs,” said Jacob Dolan, Made in Durham’s employer engagement strategist. “At first they’re nervous, but you can see them become more relaxed and comfortable as they hear others’ stories and start to connect with the speakers.”

Achievement Academy student Shontaye Green said she learned a lot about applying for jobs. “I didn’t really understand about needing to dress nice and sit up straight and look people in the eye. We need to be serious about applying for a job.”

Research shows that helping young people connect work and learning can motivate them to stay in school. Work exposure and experiences prepare students for employment and develop networks that can lead to good jobs.

Career exploration site visits, such as the Durham Bulls event, are part of a continuum of career-readiness experiences being developed by Made in Durham partners that help build the community’s talent pipeline.

Prepare and Stand Out

Students tour the ballpark to learn about all the jobs behind the scenes.

Scott Strickland, assistant general manager of operations for the Durham Bulls, said entry-level jobs can be stepping stones to career success.

“We have a lot of full-time employees who were once in the same position as you are now,” Strickland said. “They had no experience, but they figured out how to make themselves stand out.”

He encouraged participants to attend the Durham Bulls job fair and offered advice for what to do when they got there. “Dress nice, sit up straight, make eye contact, and be respectful.”

Strickland also advised the young people to have a thoughtful answer when asked why they want a job. “Because your mom is making you get a job is not a good answer,” said Strickland. “Employers are looking for people who want to be there.”

Peter Wallace, director of ticketing, Brian Simorka, director of ticket sales, and Dave Levey, director of food and beverage also offered advice.

Wallace encouraged students to be open to the many different kinds of jobs available at the ballpark. Hospitality crew, sports turf crews, retail staff and promotions are just some of the types of jobs the Bulls are looking to fill, he said.

“There are jobs for just about every interest, so think about what might be a good match for you,” said Wallace. “Then go after that job and be clear about why you think you would do well in that position.”

Levey explained how so many different jobs combine to make an organization work. “Even one small job can be critical to the success of an organization,” said Levey.

Simorka said the Bulls are committed to Durham’s youth. “Anything we can do to help direct these kids, we’re excited to do. “We’re trying to give them a leg up.”

Exposure + Experiences = Career Ready

Performance Learning Academy student Nick Ellis said he’d never thought about the behind-the-scenes work of a baseball stadium. “You just think it’s all about the players, but there’s so much more to it,” he said. Nick plans to attend the job fair in hopes of getting a summer job.

Achievement Academy student Kiara Overby thought attending the event provided an advantage for participants. “This information gives us a chance to get jobs before other people,” she said.

Staff members from the programs said the event is worthwhile for their students.

“Events like this present these kids with some realities of the world they’re walking into. It helps get them ready,” said Achievement Academy teacher Sarah Leverett.

“Exposure to opportunities in their own back yard, other than fast food, is very important for these kids,” said PLC counselor Angel Wiggins. “The students get a lot out of this event.”

For more information or to find out about hosting a site visit for Durham students, contact Made in Durham Employer Engagement Strategist Jacob Dolan at jdolan@madeindurham.org or (919) 215-5844.


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Made in Durham is a community partnership of educators, business, government, youth-serving nonprofits and young people mobilized around a shared vision that all of Durham’s youth will complete high school and a post-secondary credential and begin a rewarding career by the age of 25.
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