Coronavirus impact: Summer youth jobs program needs more employers

Montgomery County wants to boost the number of employers for its summer youth jobs program after many companies stopped participating due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The county expects as many as 1,500 students aged 14-18 to seek summer work through the Youth Career Services 365 program, but currently just 432 slots are available at the 97 businesses signed up so far, said Lee Hollis Jr., interim workforce manager for the Youth Career Services Department.

“We’re trying to get some of those employers back in the fold, to get them engaged again,” he said.

More than 500 companies have participated in previous years, Hollis said.

Coronavirus concerns continue to dampen some employers’ willingness to rejoin the summer jobs program and the pandemic’s financial fallout forced some past participants to close for good, Hollis said. But he hopes new companies show interest.

“Those are opportunities that we will lose out on,” he said. “We did see some new companies were developed and some small businesses in the area were just created. We’re trying to engage them and share with them the opportunity we have.”

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Kim Jarvis, owner of the On Purpose Academy Mentoring and Learning Center in Dayton, said she plans to bring on at least five teens for summer to work as classroom aides.

“It helps us as a daycare center. You need eyes on everything at all times,” she said. “They’re not teachers and can’t be in the classroom by themselves, but they can help us serving food, playing games, doing academic enrichment or intervention.”

The experience will be invaluable for those considering a career in early childhood education, Jarvis said.

“They get to test the waters,” she said. “It helps with their career development because they get to see what they like and what they don’t like.”

It also helps a company’s bottom line, Jarvis said.

Montgomery County processes all the applications, provides job readiness training to the students, as well as pays their salaries and workers’ compensation insurance.

The job opportunities available run the gamut from engineering to jobs the in health care, restaurant and insurance industries. Hollis would like to see increased participation from local firms in all sectors.

“If we could hit the 300 mark, that would be good,” he said.

In some past years, funding has limited the number of summer positions available. This year, however, the sole limitation is the dearth of companies, according to the county.

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Hollis said the program’s benefits are twofold.

“It helps our students really get that experience at a young age, to help develop those soft skills, develop them with their work ethic and what to expect and what to do on the job or in a professional setting,” he said. “And it gives our employers the opportunity to train and develop their future workforce.”

Montgomery County Business Services began YouthWorks, a summer jobs program serving 25 students during its first year in 1999. The annual program grew to serve more than 2,300 students during peak summers with more than 500 participating businesses. Due to federal changes and amended state law in 2017, the county added a fall and winter session and changed the name to Youth Career Services 365.

Youth participants can work up to 20 hours a week during the summer session and 10 hours weekly during the fall and winter session, according to the county.

Montgomery County Commissioner Carolyn Rice said she hopes companies will renew their support of the program or sign on for the first time.

“This is a great program that gives students in the county actual work experience with real wages,” Rice said. “Last year, the pandemic made it really difficult for the youth.”


How to participate in program

Both youth and employers interested in the Youth Career Services 365 program can call Montgomery County Business Services at (937) 224-1482 or find more information online at https://thejobcenter.org/youth/youth-career-services-365/.

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