In a city where youth struggle against high unemployment and poverty to find work, one program is helping give some a leg up into a possible career. More than 200 youth graduated from the Summer Jobs for Youth program Friday morning, run locally through New Beginnings. “I didn’t even feel like I was working for money. I was meeting people, learning so much,” said 18-year-old Rehema Byatanga, who was placed with the City of Windsor. “It’s a great thing for the youth, especially to get their foot in the door. It helps them look to the future for careers, planning,” said New Beginnings executive director Mary Kay Morand. Morand said the government-funded program offers employers the chance to hire a student when some companies might not have a need — or funds — to take on inexperienced workers. The program pays an adult minimum wage salary for the six-week full-time work term. In 2015-16, New Beginnings received $962,656 for the program. A 2013 report estimated Windsor’s youth unemployment was hovering around 25 per cent, the highest in Ontario. Windsor has had the highest unemployment rate in the country for longer than any other city in the last seven years. The Star has previously reported that the high unemployment rate can lead companies to focus on hiring experienced workers, foregoing succession planning and neglecting to hire younger or inexperienced employees. “Our youth are our future and when we can get our workforce here, our business sector believing in our youth, and giving them these entry-level positions in the trades, then we’re preparing them to take those jobs that can be available as time goes on,” she said. A V Gauge & Fixture Inc. is one of those companies. Human resources staff Inna Turkova said they’ve been actively recruiting young workers through programs such as Jobs for Youth for several years. “We are committed to educating youth about the skilled trades,” she said, adding that the student from this year’s placement is now a part-time worker at the company. “The business sector is winning because they’re getting these young people who are motivated and hungry and want the positions,” Morand said. “And it’s fulfilling their need for staffing.” It’s the program’s ninth year, and while Morand says it’s never clear whether government funding will be renewed, the program’s results speak for themselves.