Behind the Scenes: Y.O.U.'s Employer Relations Team

Y.O.U.’s vision is a greater community working together to ensure that every young person is ready to pursue a path to economic self-sufficiency. 

One of the ways we work towards realizing this is through our Employer Relations Team. 

A person can’t be self-sufficient without an income, and the individuals who comprise this team manage our relationships with hundreds of Northeast Ohio employers. Our employment partners make it possible for the youth we serve to quickly earn some income or pursue a work experience that allows them to learn about a potential career interest through hands-on experience.

“As an Employment Specialist [at Y.O.U.] I build and maintain relationships with employers, social agencies, local governments, and educators regarding workforce development and job placements for our participants,” Jerry Armstrong said. “I also serve as a mentor and coach.”

“Once I find an employer that looks like a good match, I reach out and introduce our organization and mission to them to see if they are interested in hosting our young people,” said Y.O.U. Employment Specialist Karen Curtis. “If they are, I make an appointment to meet with a decision-maker —human resources manager, general manager, owner— to go over the program. [I] conduct a worksite visit to determine safety and accessibility for bus riders. We also have [the employer] sign a worksite agreement to ensure the success and safety of the participants and the employer are met in accordance to our contract. The employer’s information is entered into the database and positions are entered with a job description, dress code, start date and time, and any other pertinent information regarding the work experience.”

Finding a corporate partner is half the work for the Employer Relations Team; the other half is matching youth to work experiences and internship opportunities. 

“In order to get them a job that’s a good fit, we have to get to know the young people,” said Manicka Collins-Bryant, who manages the Employer Relations team. “It helps us find them employment close to where they go to school or live.”

Janet Mack, a Y.O.U. Employment Specialist, works on Y.O.U.’s PEEKE program, a new internship initiative. As part of her job this year, she will match 30 high school juniors with professional mentors, according to their career interests. 

“The internship offers students the perfect opportunity for career exploration before committing to a profession,” Janet said. “I find the work extremely rewarding. Many students wouldn't have the opportunity or know how to get in touch with an employer for such an experience. It is paid as well. Also, it’s an amazing feeling when the interns and mentors both have a positive experience…a win-win.” 

By connecting the youth we serve to our region’s corporate and community partners who provide mentors, work experiences, internship opportunities, and potentially, employment, the Employer Relations team helps youth start down a path toward economic self-sufficiency.

“I believe everyone has a natural gift that should fuel their passion in this world, and sometimes it begins with the smallest step,” Karen said. “A job for many can mean the difference in how that household pays their bills, buys groceries, or provides for their family.” 

If you're an employer and interested in teaching a young person about your field and providing him or her with a work experience this summer, contact Y.O.U. Employment Specialist Karen Curtis at (216) 973-0996 or, and learn more about partnering with us! 

Carli Cichocki