It will take the outreach of many different hands to get local teenagers into the workforce this summer. Where self-motivation, family encouragement and state assistance fall short, agencies and employers across the region are standing up for youth.
Several initiatives are currently in the works, well ahead of the day at the end of June when schools set students free.
Since the late 1980s over 12,000 high school students have participated in New Britain’s Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program (SYELP). This five-week program offers students the chance to jump into the workforce and learn usable skills on the job.
Companies in Newington, New Britain and surrounding towns host participants.
In the past the state has granted funds to Capitol Workforce Partners to contract with social service groups across Central Connecticut to provide the program. Last year the grant was not awarded and programs at the Human Resources Agency (HRA) and fellow program provider Opportunities Industrialization Center did not happen. This spring HRA and OIC are working with local leaders to make sure as many teens as possible can participate, whether or not state funding comes through.
“We are trying to pull together an opportunity for employers to invest in youth this summer,” OIC Executive Director Paulette Fox said.
HRA and OIC pay the students’ wages, which total about $1,000 each for the summer.
“Many low-income families with limited resources rely on this program to assist their kids in buying their own school supplies and contributing to the household,” Leticia Mangual, director of youth services for the HRA Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program, said. “It goes a long way for families who are struggling.”
Organizers fear that even if the state budget includes program funding upon its tentative passage July 1, it may only provide for fewer than 100 students this year. They are now asking employers to sponsor the initiative at $2,000 per student. This will allow kids to earn minimum wage for 24 hours per week, for five weeks. To sponsor and/or host student(s), employers are urged to call 860-229-1665.
Over a quarter-million dollars is needed to provide SYELP to the high number of interested students.
“It’s a lofty goal but it would basically be the same amount provided in the past,” New Britain Chamber of Commerce President Tim Stewart said. “It’s about providing opportunities for our kids over the summer. It’s money well-invested in communities like ours.”
Marshall’s in Plainville and Stew Leonard’s in Newington have taken in many participants for the last several years.
About one-third of students are hired by worksites after the summer is over. Some begin full-time jobs and others work part time as they finish school.
Qualified students must be eligible for free/reduced lunch or be receiving state assistance and have a school attendance rate of 90 percent or better.
There are still plenty of opportunities out there for youths to get summer jobs the old-fashioned way.
Lake Compounce held a recruitment day for interested applicants at the end of March. The amusement park employs about 1,000 workers during its May-December season - many of them local teens.
The CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will be outfitting state parks with staff for the summer season and has put out a call for applicants. Open positions for those 16 and older include lifeguards, beach directors, patrol officers and maintenance.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.