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Nowadays, a summer job is as good as gold.

Nowadays, a summer job is as good as gold.

We’ve all done it (at least most of us). Worked a summer job – delivering papers, mowing lawns, ringing up sales, or waiting tables. It’s a great way to earn a few extra bucks (and to determine what you definitely don’t want to do for the rest of your life).

Nowadays, summer jobs are harder to come by but, if found, they are gold.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that seven out of 10 teens would be jobless during the summer of 2019. How come? Older workers, immigrants, and recent college grads are competing for those same openings.

Fortunately, Meriden teens have their local YMCA to thank for sponsoring a program that puts them together with employers seeking help. This year, the Y received 350 applications and, following interviews, winnowed the field down to 75 ready, willing, and excited teens. One of the lucky hires is pictured above (center) with her day campers at the Meriden YMCA Camp Mt. Mist.

Y Program Manager Tammy Valk says: “We know the teens won’t have the job experience, so we focus on a positive attitude, an eagerness to learn, and a sincere interest in personal growth.

“It’s not so much what they’ll do, but how they’ll do it,” she adds.

The interview covers quite a bit of ground, and there aren’t many softball questions. Applicants are asked about their most significant accomplishment, how school has prepared them for work, and how they have resolved a tough problem.

And, of course the dreaded, open-ended question even adults fret over, ‘Can you tell me a little about yourself?’ Might as well be ready for that one. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker currently holds ten different jobs before age forty, and this number is projected to grow.

A common answer to the question about their reason for seeking employment was a desire to make a financial contribution to their families. Teens also had very mature thoughts about what it takes to succeed: determination, cooperation, respect, goals, and a positive attitude. When asked about a most rewarding accomplishment, one interviewee said, “Seeing mom and dad proud of me.” That candidate must have been a shoo-in.

Teens accepted into the program attend an orientation led by a local business CEO that, among other things, addresses being on time, the work ethic, and proper work attire. (Sorry, no flip-flops.) That message certainly made an impression on one teen. Her dedication to her first job led her to contact her workplace to say she wouldn’t be in because her family home had caught fire. In the face of heart-rending circumstances, she demonstrated a rock-solid work ethic. She is sure to go far.

Liberty Bank Foundation is one of four local funders that have supported this program for several years to enable more teens to work. Overall, we have been instrumental in expanding local summer youth employment by recruiting over 30 other funding partners to invest more than $650,000 to make available more than 625 additional summer jobs in southeastern CT, Middletown, Willimantic, Meriden, and Wallingford.

Thank you to all the local employers for making it possible for teens to get their first taste of the work world:

  • Ball Headz Camp
  • Bongiovanni Insurance
  • Boys & Girls Club
  • Bradley Home
  • Casa Boricua de Meriden
  • Change the Play
  • Construction Workforce Initiatives
  • Four Points Sheraton
  • Girls Inc.
  • Meriden Board of Education
  • Meriden Public Library
  • Meriden YMCA