Summer Youth Employment Program May 17, 2009

With the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at 7.8 percent in Mesa County as of March, more than double the rate from March 2008, older workers who have been laid off or are looking for a second job have flooded the market, which is great for employers, but bad for teens looking for summer work.

In years past, finding summer work may have been as simple as filling out a couple of applications. Paul Graebner, the general manager at Adobe Creek Golf Course, said it could be difficult in recent summers to find a dozen workers, typically high school and college-aged men, to help the grounds crew and to wash carts.

Not this year.

“This is the first year we’ve gotten piles of applicants,” Graebner said, and more of the applications have come from adults, a change from past seasons.

He said the economic shift is great for companies and gives them an opportunity to fill their staffs with people young and old who are good fits for their positions.

“If you’re lucky enough to screen them properly, you can find some great workers,” Graebner said.

Some of the younger workers who need those summer jobs while school is out may qualify for a program designed to employ them. Up to 100 job seekers, ages 14 to 24, who fit low-income guidelines and have barriers to employment can be employed this summer through the Summer Youth Employment Program, run by The Opportunity Center, 1129 Colorado Ave.

The program will help some youths find jobs this year, thanks to the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Participating workplaces get the services of the youths, and the federal government pays the tab. Mesa County was allotted approximately $230,000 for the program, and the money must be spent by Sept. 30.

Some of the participating employers include Mesa County Libraries, Family Health West and Kiddin’ Around.

“We’ve got all these work sites. Now we’re looking for the youth to fill these positions,” said Lori Wacker, Youth Program Supervisor at The Opportunity Center.

Wacker said a few of the businesses have even expressed interest in giving the youths more permanent positions once the program is over, if they’ve done good work.

A similar program ceased 10 years ago when funding was cut back. One of the interns employed at The Opportunity Center got her first “major” job through the program.

She was 15 at the time and living in foster care. The woman, who asked not to be named, said she liked the program for the responsibility it taught her.

“Plus, it gave me money,” she said.

This time around she will get to work with the youth who receive spots in the program, and she said she is excited to see how they grow from the experience.

“They don’t realize how hard it is to go out as an adult and get a job,” she said.


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