By Neil Bomberg
In an effort to spur local governments and businesses to hire young people this summer, the President asked mayors across America to work with their local businesses to put low-income youth to work this summer. For the third year in a row, there will be no federally sponsored summer jobs program.
On a conference call last Thursday, the President urged mayors to utilize whatever resources they have to spur summer job creation in their communities. The president was joined on the by NLC President Marie Lopez Rogers, mayor, Avondale, AZ, Mayor George Heartwell of Grand Rapids, MI and Mayor Mark Mallory of Cincinnati, OH.
James White, the CEO of Jamba Juice joined the call by phone and spoke eloquently about his involvement in the summer jobs program and how his company was very proud of its commitment to youth. Last year, he said, Jamba Juice put to work 6,000 young people over the summer months.
During his remarks, the President spoke about the importance of a good summer job. "This is an opportunity to give young people the skills they need to be motivated for the long term. If they start working early in their lives, they will keep working." He added that putting young people to work has great benefits for the communities in which they live by keeping them off the streets and away from negative behavior.
Mayor Rogers spoke about the successes her community has had creating employment opportunities for young people in her community, and like the President, spoke about the benefits of her program.
Mayor Heartwell added that no one should forget about the important role the philanthropic community can play. "We started our program with the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, and it grew from there," he said.
The President indicated that a tool kit will soon be available on how mayors can successfully develop and implement a summer jobs program for low income youth. As soon as the tool kit is available NLC will share it with members.
NLC has had a long standing policy of supporting summer jobs. The reasons are quite obvious.
First, for many low income youth a summer job is the only opportunity they have to obtain some money of their own that can then be used to purchase clothing, books and other supplies for use during the school year, and can help reduce some of the financial burdens that low income families face.
Second, one of the chief benefits of any summer job is that young people learn about the world of work and develop a connection to the workplace. These first connections can be critical to developing a workplace oriented culture among young people, who through these jobs learn the importance of being on time, respectful, responsible, and professional. These experiences will help them better connect to the workplace when they are adults and can contribute to greater professional success as adult workers.
Third, for many low income youth, the job is also an important learning experience. They can learn new skills, new ways of conducting themselves, and new ways of expressing themselves. These experiences and the learning that occurs will prove invaluable as these young people grow up. This is especially true when summer jobs include classroom learning components. In addition, workplace experiences will help a young person understand the value of their education and the importance their education will have in their future world of work success.
Fourth, for those youth who work in a government office it exposes them on a firsthand basis to the activities of their local government and the ways in which they can become involved. For those youth who work in the private sector the experience gives them insight into how business works and how they might focus their education and career in that direction.
Fifth, it is important to remember that the families of low income youth, unlike more affluent families, do not have the connections necessary to obtain summer employment for their children. A public summer jobs program that targets youth in low income families helps make the connection to a job that might otherwise not be possible.
Sixth, a well-structured summer jobs program can connect low income youth to a wide range of other public services including education, health care, meals programs, and recreational activities that help the young person stay healthy, engaged in their education, and provides access to other supportive services.