This summer, teens between the ages of 14 and 18 will have the opportunity to get to work. Richland County Job and Family Services, partnered with Youth and Family Council, has launched a summer employment program starting in June that will last for 10 weeks.
The summer employment program gives teens the chance to reconnect with one another after a year of isolation and a rise in the need for job opportunities for youth.
“This program gives [teens] an opportunity to experience work, experience opportunities and get some training that could potentially help them down the road,” said Tim Harless, Service Coordinator at Richland County Youth and Family Council.
Jobs and Family Services received funds from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and used some of those dollars to launch the summer employment program. Having partnerships with many local leaders in private nonprofits, local businesses, area service providers and school districts made the process of starting the program easy, according to Harless.
The Youth and Family Council is looking for youth from every school district to apply for summer employment. There are many different work opportunities, such as urban gardening, manufacturing, parks and recreation, office support, food service, custodial, lawn maintenance.
Parents can apply by visiting the Job and Family Services website and complete the application online: For Agency Use Only (rcjfs.net).
Youth and Family Council has partnered with the city parks department in Mansfield to give teens jobs in North Lake Park and Johns Park. Mark Abrams, parks and recreation department manager, said the summer employment program is an opportunity to introduce the younger generation to the workforce.
“Our workforce isn't getting any younger, so this could introduce them to some work areas in town,” Abrams said. “And hopefully, when they graduate or go on with life, they'll stay around here and realize that there are things to do and that there are employment opportunities.”
When Abrams first heard about the new program, he thought it was a natural fit for the city parks to be involved and get teens interested in their local parks. Students will help run a summer camp and act as quasi-counselors to younger kids.
Due to COVID-19 and its effect on students doing hybrid and online school learning, Jobs and Family Services are offering incentives for students to get caught up in school such as a one-time additional stipend and bonuses in their pay.
“Some of those kids got behind, and we want to see our kids graduate,” Harless said. “We don’t want to see them have to drop back a grade or fail because they've been stuck at home and it's been a struggle for them. So, we're going to try to put some incentives out there for kids with excellent attendance.
Supervisors will check in with every work site daily. Some jobs will require supervision more than others, such as in the parks where kids will be working around machinery.
Before starting their employment, all students will go over punctuality, work ethics and responsibility. Supervisors will also be trained in de-escalation tactics to work through behavioral issues for each student if problems arise.
“I like to give [teens] a chance,” Harless said. “This is a great opportunity. We're not going to force any kids, so if they don't want to be there, they're not doing what they need to do and they're causing problems, then we would look to fill [job positions] with other kids that would be more interested in working.
Over the years, there’s been a need to give youth more opportunities in the area and to get outside over the summer months. Abrams is happy that’s finally being addressed.
“It'll give them experience working and keep them busy during the summer and hopefully keep a lot of them off the streets, and give them some money in their pockets so they can go do kids things,” Abrams said.
Students who sign up will begin employment in the second week of June up until August when school is back in session. They will work anywhere from 20 to 30 hours a week and receive $10 an hour. Many of the work sites have expressed an interest in hiring the youth after the summer experience is complete.
Transportation will be provided for the teens who need it as well as lunch five days a week provided by the Cleveland Food Bank. Applications are available at the Job and Family Services office or on the website here: For Agency Use Only (rcjfs.net).