At our March 2017 Partnership Meeting, several guest speakers helped us learn more about youth employment programs and opportunities in our community. Thanks to Donna Dusell of the Franklin Hampshire Employment Board, Lev Ben-Ezra of Community Action Youth Programs, Ricia Elwell, Community Action’s Summer Jobs and Beyond Program Specialist for Turners Falls, and Dana Lee Mengwasser of The Brick House Community Resource Center for contributing! Here is some of what we learned:
Teens these days don’t have the same kinds of opportunities to work that we had. Adults at our meeting reminisced about the first paying jobs we held in middle and high school – bagging groceries, working on farms, in offices, at restaurants, and with children in various ways – and then we learned that, for better and for worse, having an after school or summer job is no longer the norm for local teens. The percentage of Massachusetts youth aged 15-19 who work declined from 57% in 1980 to 50% in 2000 and is down to 25% currently. Plus, nowadays young people who have jobs tend to come from more affluent families. Read more about this topic here: Research on Youth Employment/Unemployment.
A positive early employment experience can be a powerful protective factor. When youth have opportunities to work in environments that are supportive, healthy, and positive, they benefit in many different ways. In addition to earning money and simply being occupied, real life work experiences help youth develop organizational and interpersonal skills, forge relationships with adult mentors, and demonstrate to themselves and others that they are capable of setting and reaching life goals. Or, as Ian, a participant in the 2016 Summer Jobs and Beyond program, described it: “feeling like I’m getting my life started.”
Our community has some great resources! While the pool of state and federal funding for youth employment programs has shrunk significantly, local youth have access to some amazing opportunities:
Donna Dusell, whose work connects her with 17 schools in Hampshire and Franklin counties, reported that Gill-Montague schools are doing “a great job” laying the groundwork and promoting career readiness for our middle and high school students. She also pointed us to the Franklin Hampshire Youth Employment website, an awesome information hub for youth, employers, and educators.
Lev Ben Ezra gave an overview of the impressive array of programs and support Community Action Youth programs offers to youth ages 14-25 in and out of school. You can get this information from their Winter 2017 newsletter (link below) or in the Workforce Development section of their website.
Ricia Elwell told us about “Summer Jobs and Beyond,” a remarkable opportunity for rising juniors and seniors at Turners Falls High School, and other in-school youth (16+) who live in Gill/Montague. This year-round program offers training for youth who have little or no work experience and connects them with paid internships with local businesses — at no cost to the business! The students and the employers also get behind-the-scenes assistance from Community Action – the goal is for both parties to have a successful experience. Dana Lee Mengwasser, who employed four young people at The Brick House last summer, including two who’ve continued on during the school year, reported that it has been an “awesome” experience for them so far.
This summer the Summer Jobs and Beyond program aims to match up to 35 youth from TFHS, Gill and Montague with summer employment opportunities. Check out the flier and application at the end of this post!
Community Action is also seeking local employers who’d like to participate in this summer’s program. For more information, contact Rebecca Jacobson, Employer Liaison @ 413-774-7028 x794