For 20 years, teens in the North End have been learning valuable lessons about work and Jesus.

Work Force, a Youth For Christ Winnipeg training employment program for youth, began in June 1999.

Beth Wilton, founder and current director describes the first year of Work Force: "I worked as a volunteer at the William Whyte School ... so I could get to know some of the kids in the grade eight class. I got to know them and then I invited them to work for us and most of them came because they could make money. We had a good turnout that year."

There are two different training programs for each age group. The Summer Work Force training is for ages 12-15. Training for the 16-20 is described as more intensive as it helps prepare the young adults for full-time, meaningful employment.

Work Force partners with local businesses to hire the teens, but Work Force pays the teens for their work.

In addition to teaching kids how to get a job and keep it, Work Force also provides an opportunity for volunteers to share God's Love.

Wilton says, "We also share the Lord in different ways. One way is through, what we call, 'X-factor' which is sort of like a devotional. Kids can participate in that or not. We do that every time our doors are open. We also have lots of one-on-one conversations with kids about the Lord and where they're at in their lives."

Wilton says she's discovered that lots of kids are capable of employment, but they need the encouragement and confidence to succeed: "Because they get lots of encouragement and praise and they're noticed - we know their names - we care about them, we journey with them, they get the confidence and the self-esteem gets built up because that's what they need to get a job."

The evidence of evangelism may not be initially evident, but Wilton says, "I've learned the Lord is at work when I have no idea He is at work in their lives. ... We don't give up on the kids because we never know what the Lord is doing.

"I had the privilege of baptizing two of my girls a few years ago. We did Bible study for about 10 years and it was so gratifying to see them want to be baptized and then go ahead with it. We also baptized five of our youth this winter after working through with them what baptism meant and what it would mean in their lives afterwards. That was a fun night as parents and family came and it was a big party!"