J As persistently slow and discouraging employment conditions continue to
paint a bleak future for the nation's youths, local summer employment programs
for young adults could not have come at a better time.
A July 5 national jobs report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that national unemployment rates for youths in June, 2013, were nearly double and triple that of overall unemployment rates. And in Ohio last year, teens and young adults were nearly one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half times as likely to struggle finding work compared to the total state labor force.
But in Lucas County, federal stimulus dollars have helped employ 565 low-income young adults this summer. The Lucas County Summer Youth Employment Program has been challenged with obstacles in its five-year existence -- including reduced funds in 2011 -- but organizers say this year's program may be its strongest yet.
"We think we're one of the best in the state," said Pete Gerken, a Lucas County commissioner and former autoworker. "This is a positive program worth the community's investment."
The eight-week summer program began June 17 and is being funded with $1.7 million in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Family funds. Coordinated by the Lucas County Workforce Development Agency, those involved are building job skills at 132 nonprofits, private business, and public administration work sites.
As early as 7:30 and 9 a.m., the youths employed at the Believe Center get to work.
The growing, green tomatoes will be ready for harvest in nearly two weeks, and a four-person team is needed to lift the garden trellises higher. They checked the nine-week old raised garden beds for dead, yellow-stained leaves, pulled pesty weeds, watered plentiful plants, and nailed wooden boards.
For first-time community gardener Ari Baer, 18, whose responsibilities at the community center have included gardening and cutting grass on vacant lots, the work has helped build his resume and prepare for trade school in Nashville this fall.
Julien Barhill said the summer employment has allowed him to forgo a truck job. Instead of being on the road and away from his family for 300 days a year, the 23-year-old West Toledo resident can take care of his 3-year-old son and baby daughter.
"This job is helping me give back to youth and support my children. It has been a blessing for me, and I am grateful to be in this program," he said.
For decades, summer employment of youths has declined nationwide.
Anthony Carnevale, the director and research professor of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, echoed these concerns.
"We've had a substantial falloff in youth employment for decades. The reason for this is that the general skills for entry-level positions have grown rapidly," he said. "Youth unemployment is cyclical ... in a recession, it's more difficult."
Tourism jobs help
Although Mr. Carnevale said a local labor industry is important -- markets with summer tourism, for example, can hire more young adults -- as the economy recovers, labor market conditions for young people should improve.
The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services has dedicated millions from stimulus dollars in 2009 and public assistance dollars in 2010, 2012, and 2013
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