County, city officials roll out new youth job program

Erik Serrato, the director of Merced County Workforce Investment, along with a group of young people, present the Merced Youth Jobs program during a recent meeting of the Merced City Council. The work access  program allows young people ages 16 to 24 opportunities for sustainable work through a ‘learn to earn’ work model.

As of Wednesday, Aug. 17, applications for the newly finalized youth employment program, Merced Youth Jobs, have become open to local young people ages 16 to 24.

A special presentation on the jobs training program was delivered to the Merced City Council during a meeting earlier this month.

Last year, Merced leaders voted to allocate $1.25 million dollars of federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to support workplace development for local youth.  In early May, the Merced Board of Supervisors approved a contract with the City of Merced.

Erick Serrato, the director Merced County’s Department of Workforce Investment, along with a team of youth advocates, were assigned to create a model program that would create a sustainable way for youth to gain work access through paid opportunities.

“There is a really interesting saying that goes: ‘The older I am, the younger my teachers are,’” Serrato explained as he addressed the Council.

“These young people challenged my team in a way that we’ve never been challenged before… These young people questioned everything. They questioned at an administrative rate, they questioned wages, they questioned benefits — all the kinds of questions that you want young people to inquire about.

“Typically, in a jobs program, the problem you are trying to solve is giving young people a little bit of experience and some extra summer cash. These young people redefined the problem to solve as ‘How to support, economic stability, wellness, and long-term career growth for the most vulnerable youth in our community. And they’ve done that with heart and intentionality, and intelligence, and with a response that directly calls out the gaps in our current social and economic system that provides opportunity and hope and be a lasting frame for other job programs that will come.”

Merced Youth Jobs seeks to create a program that creates economic stability, wellness, and has a projection for long-term growth. With an ‘earn and learn’ model, participants are paid as they gain work experience through a 20-hour work readiness training and are eligible to complete 100 hours of temporary work at local small businesses. The program seeks to provide services in groups of 30 through 2024.

“A supportive fund will be provided to help workers access up to $600 to cover rent and transportation emergencies,” explained a youth representative from the groups We’Ced and the Youth Revolutionary Front. “Special activities are offered throughout the program to center mental health and wellness with activities such as yoga and community building. This program will create other pathways to other training offered by the Worknet for Youth.”

An entrepreneurship program with a stipend will also be available for participants without citizenship status.

Eligibility will be based on the needs of the applicant. Applicants will be asked a series of questions to determine eligibility.

Young people are encouraged to apply online at: Once accepted, participants will attend a work readiness program and will then be placed on a worksite with mentors and be instructed to complete 200 hours of paid work.

For more information, please visit online at: and

Merced City CouncilMerced County Workforce InvestmentMerced Youth Jobs
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