By KAITLYN NAPLES
While 50 teens were provided employment last summer through the Capital Workforce Partners Summer Youth Employment Initiative, more than 50 percent of the applicants for the subsidized program were turned down.
“Too many youths are not getting that experience” of working and the skills, good values and character building that comes with it, said Tom Phillips, president and CEO of Capital Workforce Partners.
The subsidized summer youth employment program over the last few years has been able to put about 50 teens to work at over 20 work sites. Last year, the program scattered 51 teens among 22 work sites that varied from non-profit organizations, Bristol Hospital and more. Representatives from the Imagine Nation Museum, Bristol Housing Authority, Spare Time Bristol, Arthur G. Russell, and more were present at last week’s summer youth employment breakfast, where they heard about the opportunities they can provide to the younger generation. The program is offered to students from most of Hartford County, in towns like Bristol and Plainville who apply to the program. These students must be receiving, or eligible, for free and reduced lunch at his or her school. The program is state funded. Phillips said this year it has received $4.5 million, however that still leaves applicants without a position.
Phillips said there needs to be more companies who will take on students on their own dime.
“We are creating taxpayers and consumers,” Phillips said. “All they want is a chance.”
The students work between July and August for five or six weeks and are paid minimum wage. While the students can work between 20 to 40 hours per week, they also spend time in a classroom learning interview and communication skills, computer literacy, customer service, problem solving and decision making skills, how to job search, how to write a resume and cover letter and more.
Capital Workforce Partners teams up with Bristol Community Organization for the summer program, and Social Services Manager Nancy Micloskey said many times the teens that participate in the summer employment program come from families that are on government assistance.
“It gives the family a bit of reprieve,” because that child is bringing home a paycheck, Micloskey said, adding supervisors visit the work sites every day to see how the teens are progressing in the program.
Phillips said starting next year, and for the next 15 to 18 years, the labor force will be steadily decreasing due to retirements, so investing in the youth right now is the best way to ensure a viable economy. He said the future of Connecticut will have more construction and energy jobs become available because of legislation that calls for homes in the state to convert to natural gas.
“There will be opportunities out there and if we don’t get young people positioned to have these opportunities, we are going to be in trouble,” Phillips added.
Mayor Ken Cockayne attended last week’s breakfast and shared his story of how he was working at the age of 15-and-a-half at a furniture company.
“It really showed me how to get up in the morning, go to work during the summer, and how to save my money and spend it wisely,” Cockayne said, adding that the program is a great opportunity for the youth, especially providing the opportunity to take them away from cell phones and video games.
For more information on the Summer Youth Employment Initiative, visit Capital Workforce Partner’s website at www.capitalworkforce.org, or call (860) 522-1111. Information is also available at the Bristol Community Organization website, at www.bcoct.org.