to subsidize summer youth-employment programs in 73 Ohio counties.
Counties are not required to offer such programs, but child poverty has long been a concern in Lucas County. For the last five years, the Workforce Development Agency and county commissioners have coordinated more than 2,800 summer-youth jobs.
And as long as a youth's family earns within 130 percent of the poverty line, Mr. Gerken said the program will not turn away eligible workers.
Mr. Baer said without this opportunity, he might have been on the couch at home all summer, playing computer games. Instead, the three-time program participant is working a maximum 40 hours per week at $8 an hour to help his mom support his younger brother and sister.
According to Benjamin Johnson, spokesman at the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, the short-term benefits of summer programs are threefold.
First, they provide work to a population that struggles to get meaningful job experience. Second, because young adults have a qualified need, they immediately can spend or save earned income as they would like.
And third, costs covered with federal dollars make it possible for employers to add summer staff, without replacing full-time workers.
Earlier this month, Commissioner Carol Contrada called the program a "win-win-win" for the youth, community, and employers.
Supervisors at three randomly selected work sites, interviewed two weeks after the program began June 17, said their experiences have been nothing but positive.
But in 2009, the county program made its debut to mixed reception. Some of the workers had good experiences. Others dropped out, and some employers complained that those assigned to their site could not perform basic tasks, were unwilling to work, or would show up late or not at all.
Five-time participating employer Tracey Jacob, who has supervised a total of 25 students at sites that include an automotive supplier and an envelope firm, said the program is effectively managed. Job coaches will randomly check in with employers and workers every other week and will switch those to other work sites "on the spot" if the relationship isn't a good match.
'Real lessons of life'
Not every experience has been perfect, Ms. Jacob added, but if supervisors are willing to supervise, the program can be valuable to all.
"Sometimes, kids need to mature quickly and be educated on a remedial level. They're learning the real lessons of life in a short period of time. At the same time, there's more effort that comes with that, but the value has got to be there," she said.
The program teaches young adults the rules of the workplace and how to be responsible, as well as how to apply for jobs online, build resumes, and interview.
And because the agency and county evaluate the program each year, Mr. Gerken said it has constantly evolved.
In addition to conducting post-employment interviews with employers to ensure that they are benefiting from the experience and properly supervising workers, he said student post-employment evaluations have taught the agency that transportation issues the first year prevented many from arriving to work on time or getting there at all.
Mr. Gerken said work force staff now assign the young adults to work sites according to their interests and access to transportation. They also guide the workers with ways of properly handling their money.
The county program has been an important learning opportunity for low-income workers and last year, Toledo Mayor Michael Bell asked local businesses to "step up" and help provide jobs.
Community-based organizations responded by participating in several job fairs and contributing donations. City spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei said some organizations, particularly ProMedica, answered Mayor Bell's challenge by enhancing their own summer-employment programs.
Ms. Sorgenfrei said ProMedica, which this year has formed a partnership with United Way, has provided students not only with summer jobs but also with exposure to a spectrum of opportunities in the health-care industry.
Jack Nagy, 18, who graduated from high school with plans to study nursing at the University of Toledo this fall, said his part-time work experience stocking rooms with supplies, checking equipment, and speaking with patients has confirmed his career ambitions.
Students are working both in clinical and nonclinical components of health care, said Luke Barnard, ProMedica's manager of work force planning.
"We want to grow workers for the future and help them get through the door."
Contact Danielle Trubow at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050 or on Twitter @danielletrubow.
(c)2013 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)
Visit The Blade (Toledo, Ohio) at www.toledoblade.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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