With summer around the corner, young people are starting to look for summer jobs, but the task is not easy. As unemployment rates rise, businesses are hesitant to offer work to teenagers, but youth career counselors say that though getting job may be more difficult this year, it’s not impossible.
“It’s a little bit tougher, but it’s definitely not unrealistic to find a job right now,” said Nora Guerin, who works at North and Washburn High Schools through Achieve Minneapolis, a guidance program that operates in the Minneapolis Public Schools. Guerin said that while businesses usually tend to be reluctant to hire teens, especially 14 and 15 year olds, this year’s economy makes it doubly hard, since businesses are laying off so many adults.
Guerin said that some of the students she works with really need a job to help out their families. “If the need is there, and the student is persistent enough, they’ll be able to find a job,” said Guerin. “It’s not completely dismal, and it’s not that the jobs are nonexistent.”
As a job counselor, Guerin receives notices on a regular basis from businesses that are looking for workers, which she posts outside her office. She said she hopes to put in place a city wide website where Minneapolis students can look for work, but so far there hasn’t been the funding. In the meantime, Guerin directs youth to websites such as ISEEK and GrooveJob. Her favorite website is What’s Up because it allows teens to enter their age and zip code to find a suitable job.
In addition to local businesses, various nonprofit and government-funded programs offer summer jobs for youth.
For young people living in St. Paul who meet the income requirements, the Youth Job Corps is a great way to spend the summer working outside doing landscaping projects. While most of the work is outdoors, there are also positions at libraries, the YWCA, the Boys and Girls Club, the Community Design Center, and at the police station, according to former program director Matt Reinartz. The young people “learn what it’s like to have a job”, said Reinartz. He said the young people, in addition to gaining experience working, also receive training about writing resumes and preparing for interviews. They also gain skills on the job. Reinartz said that the young people were given a horticulture test before and after the program, and the results from taking the test after a summer of working in the parks were vastly improved. After successfully completing the program, the young people receive a certificate that they can take to future employers.
Minneapolis also has a summer job program for youth, called Step-Up, but applications were due in January.
Another summer job option for youth is the Youth Conservation Corps with Tree Trust, an organization that was founded in 1976, to help reforest the Twin Cities metropolitan area in the wake of Dutch Elm disease. Tree Trust’s Paula Van Avery said the founders had interest in landscape and environment, and combined that passion with a passion for young people. Last year Tree Trust employed 750 youth, and Van Avery said she expected that number to go up this year due to federal stimulus money. Tree Trust also has a young adult corps, hiring young people through the age of 24.
Besides going through job programs and searching job boards, Nora Guerin also recommends that students go directly to the businesses that they’d like to work for. They can go to the company’s website or simply walk down to the places that they’d like to work. She said going through the process of finding and applying for a job is a valuable experience for a young person. “I never hand a kid a job. That doesn’t work well and doesn’t teach the kid anything. It’s good to learn how to find a job.”
Guerin said that Achieve Minneapolis will hold a teen job fair on April 25 at Central Library in downtown Minneapolis from noon to four. The event is sponsored by the Hennepin County Library, the City of Minneapolis Employment and Training Program, the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development, AchieveMpls and others. Guerin said the fair is a great opportunity for teens looking for jobs, internships, or summer camps.
Another resource is the Minnesota Work Force Center’s summer job page.
Sheila Regan is a theater artist based in Minneapolis. When not performing or writing, she serves as educational coordinator for Teatro del Pueblo.