It will take the outreach of many different hands to get local teenagers into the workforce this summer.
Where self-motivation or family encouragement falls short, agencies and employers across the region are standing up for youth.
Since merging with Bristol’s Community Action Organization in Jan. 2017, the Bristol HRA is now hoping to offer summer youth employment and learning program to students.
This five-week program offers students the chance to jump into the workforce and learn usable skills on the job.
The state would grant 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 HRA and fellow program provider Opportunities Industrialization Center in New Britain, who also helps people in Bristol as well, 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,” Director of Youth Services for HRA Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program Leticia Mangual said. “It goes a long way for families who are struggling.”
Participating Bristol employers include the Imagine Nation Museum and Learning Center, Arna Machine Co., CVS and Royal Screw Machine Products. Marshall’s in Plainville has also 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. Organizers fear that even if the state budget includes program funding upon its tentative passage July 1, it may only provide for less than 100 students this year.
When the 2017 program was cancelled, it was a hard blow for all expecting to take part. Not only youth- but also the companies, which open up positions for teens.
“It was very disappointing to the employers last summer,” HRA Program Coordinator Katie O’Donnell remembered. “Especially because it was last-minute. A lot of them depend on this.”
The agency still kept its doors open, in case teens wanted to use the computer lab for a job search or have staff look over their resume.
There are still plenty of opportunities out there for youth 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, @schmittnbh or firstname.lastname@example.org.