NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WVEC) – About 600 16 to 24-year-olds living in the southeast community of Newport News have an opportunity to gain work experience this summer, which promises more than just a paycheck.

The city is looking for eligible young people and businesses to participate in the Youth and Gang Violence Prevention Initiative’s Summer Training and Enrichment Program.

Applications are being accepted until March 11, 2016 for STEP, a 10-week summer work readiness program that provides paid work experience, field trips, workshops, financial literacy training and GED preparation classes.

The program begins mid-June and will serve approximately 600 young people who live south of Mercury Boulevard or within the designated service area of the north.

With only a week until the deadline, only about 300 participants have applied.

Summer Training and Enrichment Program: Click here to apply

Participants work at job sites three or four days per week, participate in Enrichment Days one or two days per week and are paid a weekly stipend. Program costs are paid for by the city’s Youth and Gang Violence Prevention Initiative.

Participants are paid $7.25 per hour and those who have a high school diploma or GED will receive $8 per hour.

“We are looking forward to the continued growth in opportunities for our youth through the Summer Training and Enrichment Program,” said Mayor McKinley Price. “Because of our commitment to reducing and eliminating youth and gang violence, we are working tirelessly to help our young people connect to valuable resources and provide them with much needed training to make sure they are armed with tools that will help them to lead productive lives.”

The city needs businesses and organizations who would like to provide summer opportunities to STEP participants at no cost to the business.

Last year, 64 Newport News-based businesses and organizations participated in the program. In an effort to attract more business participants, the city has opened up the partnership to businesses located throughout the Hampton Roads area. All funding for the STEP program is provided by the Newport News Youth & Gang Violence Prevention Initiative, including the stipend the participants receive.

Businesses and organizations interested in providing job sites should register online at http://ygvpinn.nnva.gov or contact MaRhonda Echols, Youth & Gang Violence Prevention Coordinator, at (757) 926-3678 or mechols@nnva.gov.

Registration for business to serve as a work site will be open until early May.

“We are excited to again provide employment opportunities for our youth,” said City Manager Jim Bourey. “This year, we are growing in scope and size to prepare more of our young people for the world of work. We encourage businesses and organizations to partner with us to provide worksites for our STEP participants.”

Last summer the program served 316 youth and young adults who worked a total of 72,758 hours and earned $594,721. At the end of last year’s program, 21 participants were offered employment because of the skills they learned through STEP. In its third year, STEP has expanded in scope to include a larger target area of the city and larger number of participants.

To learn more about the STEP program and the City of Newport News’ gang violence prevention initiatives visit http://ygvpinn.nnva.gov or follow along on the City’s social media pages using hashtags #STEPNN2016 and #YGVPINN.