COLUMBIA— In an effort to provide work experience for young people, the Missouri Summer Jobs Program is offering more than 4,600 paid jobs and internships to 14- to 24-year-olds.
The program's goal is simple: to help young people, specifically those in the low-income bracket, find jobs and give local businesses the opportunity to mentor these employees.
Aside from employee training, the participants are paid through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The Recovery Act has three immediate goals:
- Create new jobs while saving existing ones
- Invest in long-term growth
- Increase accountability and transparency in government spending
To do this the Recovery Act is:
- Providing $288 billion in tax cuts and benefits for millions of working familires and businesses
- Increasing federal funds for education, health care and entitlement programs by $224 billion
- Making $275 billion available for federal contracts, grants and loans
- Requiring recipients of the funds to submit quarterly reports on usage of the money.
"If you're 17 years old and you're trying to get a job this summer, you may not have any experience or skills," Joe Hawkins, outreach journalist for the Central Region Workforce Investment Board, said. "With this program they can come to the career centers and people will walk them through this process. On top of that, they're going to help them find a job."
Through the Central Missouri Community Action Center, there are 94 youth and young adults enrolled in the program with 20 employers. Statewide there are more employers than there are employees in the program. There are 1,149 employers working with the 1,121 total participants.
Participants receive payment for their work through an $18 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It is funded by the Summer Jobs Program and is administered by the Department of Economic Development's Division of Workforce Development.
Though employers aren't responsible for payroll, they serve as mentors, which, in Hawkins' eyes, affords them a rare opportunity.
Youth who are interested in the program are guided through the process with the help of more than 320 counselors in Missouri's 14 Workforce Investment Regions.
In order to be eligible, participants must be between the ages of 14 to 24 and meet one of the following guidelines:
- Meet the income guidelines
- Be a member of a family that receives cash payments from an income-based public assistance program (TANF)
- A foster child
- A person with disabilities
The program ends Sept. 30.
According to a previous Missourian article, Missouri added 3,600 jobs last month, a factor in bringing the June unemployment rate to 9.1 percent, which was down two-tenths of a percent from May.
Nevertheless, Hawkins maintains that unemployment in the 14- to 24-year-old demographic is double the national average.
Missouri Summer Jobs Program is trying to lessen that by creating a sustainable working model for young people who may have to overcome more barriers to get their foot in the doors, Deanna Stubblefield, functional leader at the Missouri Career Center in Columbia, said.
But it's not the first of its kind.
Next Generation Jobs Team
A similar summer employment program lasted from May 1, 2009 to Sept. 30, 2009.
Summer internships and work experiences allowed 7,200 14- to 24-year-olds to hold jobs with more than 2,100 employers statewide, according to the Next Generation Jobs Team website.
The main difference between last year and this year is income demographic.
"This year the focus is low-income," Stubblefield said. "We're able help kids get their foot in the door who may have some barriers getting some real-world experience."
Like the Summer Jobs Program , the funding for the Next Generation Jobs Team came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which passed on Feb. 13, 2009.
The program receives an $18 million grant from this act.
"That has been a huge part of both of our summer programs," Stubblefield said. "If it weren't for that act, we wouldn't be able to fund summer programs of this size."
The results from this program have a quick turnover. After meeting the initial qualifications, participants in Columbia meet with one of seven counselors, select a couple jobs that they are most interested in, apply and interview. Employers call back the most qualified applicants, just like any job process would entail.
"It's a lot of work in a very short period of time," Stubblefield said, "but you're able to see almost instantaneous results with the kids. ... They're able to earn wages, help their family out and save money for future ventures."