LIMA — With most schools already ending for the year, many young people are looking for summer jobs. Getting that summer job should be easier because teen unemployment is below 13 percent, something that hasn’t happened for many years.
On the other hand, due to factors like a rising minimum wage, inexperienced high schoolers could be priced out of the running for those jobs.
According to Michael Saltsman, managing director of the Employment Policies Institute, over the past five years, the summer teen labor force participation rate during the summer months has remained steady at around 35 percent. Back in 2001, that rate was above 50 percent.
One factor to blame, according to Saltsman, was a rising minimum wage. Older more experienced workers are also competing for those summer jobs. A Drexel University report tracked a 5 percentage point drop in the share of teens working restaurant jobs over the last two decades. As the minimum wage rises, employers look for their job applicants whose skill sets set them apart from a 16-year old with little to no work experience.
Getting training for that first summer job
Kylon Petty, 13, and his sister Jakyra, 15, hope their participation in Derry Glenn’s Rent-A-Kid program will get them experience in the workforce, whether its mowing grass or doing other chores.
This is Kylon’s first summer job and he’s already been learning how to mow lawns. So what has he learned so far?
“That you’re supposed to work hard and care for your community,” he said.
Jakyra sees this as a chance not only to gain experience working but also to help the community.
“This brings something good, it makes me feel good about being able to serve other people,” said Jakyra.
On this day, they were spreading around some straw to help recently planted grass grow on a lot at 518 S. Atlantic St.
Glenn, the 6th Ward Lima Councilman, started the Rent-A-Kid program eight years ago, and it’s grown ever since.
“It gives the kids an opportunity to get job experience in our community and get them off the streets, but we need more people to make calls to us [for work]. Right now we’ve got over 60 kids signed up,” said Glenn.
The kids want summer jobs and they need experience doing something work-related.
“We get a lot of kids with no experience, never cut grass before, never painted before, never raked leaves, so we got some land donated here on Atlantic. It’s going to be our little training site. We’ll put some shelters up and lock our lawnmowers up here and have the kids who don’t know much about grass or painting gain experience here. We’ll help them out before they get out on the job,” said Glenn.
When young people start out, there are few opportunities for them and it seems there’s even less opportunity for those starting to explore the world of summer jobs even with an improving economy.
“It’s very important to our kids to learn these skills. It’s something they need to do. We’ve got some kids who never had the opportunity to get a job until they get 18 years old,” said Glenn.
Ohio Means Jobs means opportunities for young people
For students seeking summer jobs and have long-term goals of going to college, Ohio Means Jobs can help them through the Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act.
“We have a youth program we have in-house here. With that, we can fund youth to work through an internship. We can pay 100 percent on a work experience for them and they just have to be 200 percent of poverty level, with typically free or reduced lunches they would be eligible for that,” said Joe Patton, director of Ohio Means Jobs Allen County.
These kinds of summer job experiences can lead to a career.
“It’s kind of a nice program because it’s a good resume builder. Everything we do down here we try to do by career pathways so if you’re in high school and you’re saying you might want to be a nurse or something we’re going to try and get you a job that’s going to relate to that and then it may not necessarily be in a nursing home or somewhere like that it might be customer service. Anything we do we try to relate to their long-range plan. We try to get them thinking towards a long-range plan instead of just working willy-nilly wherever at the ice cream store or whatever. Those jobs are great, and if you just want to make the money for something, that’s fine, but again, if you’re on a four-year degree path to be an engineer, we’re going to try and get you in those types of functions that are going to be more geared toward that as a resume builder for people,” said Patton.
Lima City Schools are training kids to be employable
An area that is sometimes overlooked is the resources available at the school the student attends.
“We’re always happy to see our kids be employed. We hire our own kids for book crews at the middle school and high school level so we do employ our own kids for that. A few years ago we were able to have our kids employed through Ohio Means Jobs and they were doing some landscaping. We were able to pair them up with our maintenance people to do some work for us in that way,” said Jill Ackerman, superintendent of Lima City Schools.
The schools can also be a source of contact for summer jobs.
“We can find opportunities and we can make those connections for them so I feel that’s a big responsibility for us. For kids, even in middle school when they turn 14, we can issue work permits, and then the City of Lima sends us their information about summer employment and we distribute that to our kids, as well, so that they can sign up for employment with them and employment through the rec department and things like that. We think that’s a big responsibility for us,” said Ackerman.
Making connections at Putnam County Job and Family Services
Putnam County doesn’t have a summer job program, per se, but they can help kids find work.
“I think there are more opportunities for youth to have summer jobs. We have a list places that are willing to hire youth for part-time and after-school and summer jobs,” said Suzy Wischmeyer, director of Putnam County Job and Family Services.
So what kind of jobs are out there for young people in Putnam County?
“Customer service, nursery work, restaurants, of course, cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, sweeping, answering the phone, taking orders, lawn services and landscaping,” said Wischmeyer.
“Lock Sixteen, they hire students to cater events that take place during the day and evening hours,” she said.
“If they are interested in who is hiring, they can come in and see us and we can forward their application to those that are hiring. We can work with them as far as helping them to put together a resume, too, if they want to add a resume to the application. [We can] go over interviewing skills with them, do mock interviews if they’ve never interviewed before, just to brush up their skills, or it might be they don’t have any skills and they need skills if they’re young and never had a job before,” she said.
How important is it for young people to grab that first job?
“Very important. We are finding out from employers that we talked to, that the young people that have jobs and show that they’ve held onto a job during their high school years are much more productive workers and already have the skills necessary at the beginning of their employment so they can succeed at their first real jobs,” she said.
In their first summer job, some soft skills can be taught like, “attendance, how to present themselves, working with schedules and being cognizant of others that are employed there as well and working together as a team and all those things that make a good employee,” she said.
Auglaize County has programs in place to help youth find employment
Auglaize County is working with area youth to help them ease into the summer job market and even to a regular job when they’re ready.
“Our goal here is to try very hard in Auglaize County to keep our local talent local. There’s many employment opportunities in our county and it runs the gamut. It can be anywhere from food service all of the way up to engineering and we have new companies in the area that are hiring so we’re trying to match those skill sets that are needed for our local talent to stay here and work and move forward,” said Amy Freymuth, Director of Workforce Development and Self Sufficiency programs for Auglaize County Job and Family Services.
Freymuth emphasizes there’s plenty of jobs out there for youth.
“There’s different things that youth can do. If you’re 18 and over you have availability to operate machinery or even in the food industry, different types of slicers. If you’re younger, between the ages of 16 to 18 we still have a lot of employers who will look at food service or maybe mowing grass,” she said.
There’s even a program in place to help youth reach their employment goals.
“As far as a summer program, we have a program called CCMEP, [Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program] and we work with 14 to 24-year-olds. This program is geared to assist those who are eligible in trying to find a career pathway, maybe an educational pathway that will lead to self-sufficiency. This program is funded separately from other JFS programs and we determine eligibility by income and then we case manage these clients until they’re age 24 or they’ve achieved their goals and have moved into self-sufficient employment,” she said.
The goal is to keep people off public assistance long term.
“For example, our 14 to 16-year-olds, we might spend more time with them working on thoughts about what they might want to do, maybe do some job shadowing, do some career exploration. Then we get into the 16 to 18-year-olds, which are typically kids that are still in high school or vocational school, and they’re starting to formulate again a stronger sense of what they may or may not want to do. So we continue that pathway with them, and then we also have greater opportunity with that age group to have them maybe working a part-time job, and then as they graduate, the goal being that they have some sort of pathway in mind as to what they want to do, whether it’s a two-year program or certification program, they go directly into the workforce, maybe they want to go to college and try to gain an education that will keep them self-sufficient,” Freymuth added.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.