More than 3,100 teens applied for summer employment through Montgomery County’s Summer Youth Works Program for a chance at 1,250 jobs.
“Do kids want to work? The answer is ‘yes,’” Health MacAlpine, assistant director of Workforce Development for the Montgomery County Department of Job & Family Services said. “We started a waiting list Feb. 1. We received 500 telephone calls the first day.”
Nationally, the unemployment rate for teens is about 24.5 percent compared to 7.2 percent for adult men and 6.5 percent for adult women, according to a May 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics report. The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) —a non-profit research organization studying public policy issues surrounding employment growth — reports teen unemployment has exceeded 20 percent for over four year.
The institute estimates the unemployment rate for Ohio teens at 16. 4 percent.
“Despite some modest improvements, the nation’s teens are still on track to suffer through their fifth consecutive summer of high unemployment and difficult job prospects,” said Michael Saltsman, research director at EPI, in a written statement. “As a result, many will miss out on the valuable career experience that comes from entry-level jobs.”
MacAlpine said impacting the unemployment rate for teens are recent college graduates who are holding on to entry level positions longer and senior citizens who are remaining or returning to the workforce, because of financial need.
Montgomery County launched the summer jobs program 16 years ago with just 25 participants, ages 14-17. This year, the number of teens is only limited by the $1.8 million state grant that funds it. The grant pays the teens’ salaries and picks up the tab for workers’ compensation.
“I truely believe if the door was wide open that 3,100 applicants would go up pretty quickly,” Rocky Rockhold, the county’s supervisor of special projects for Workforce Development said. “By and large, our youth are excited to get to work.”
The teens must be Montgomery County residents and enrolled in school. Family income cannot exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $47,100 for a family of four.
Participants go through a rigorous application process, where their skills and interests are identified. Teens are selected for the 20-hour-a-week jobs through a random drawing. They earn $7.85 an hour working at law firms, in retail, summer camps, insurance companies, doctor’s offices and day care centers. The program lasts eight weeks.
Dayton resident Tyra Whitlow, 17, started work Monday at the Richmond Foot & Ankle Clinic, LLC in the Charles Drew Health Center. Whitlow, in her third year with Youth Works, said the experience has helped her identify a career path.
“I want to become a physician,” Whitlow said. “I’ve learned how to take blood pressures and how to give a (therapeutic) foot bath. I’m thankful for the job and I really enjoy the work.”
Sherry Samartini, the office manager at the clinic, said her goal is to give the teens (she hired three) a better understanding of the work environment.
“They learn attendance counts, punctuality counts, their appearance counts,” Samartini said. “We enjoy having them.”
Rockhold said 291 business are participating in the program this summer.
“We try to get quality employers who truly look at this as a training opportunity for youth, not just free labor,” Rockhold said.
This fall, 10 summer participants will be selected to continue with an expanded version of the program that explores career and college opportunities.
“We want to give them opportunities to see inside Montgomery County where people are driving our economy every day,” MacAlpine said.”We’re very pleased with the performance of the Youth Works program, but we think we can do more.”