July 23, 2016

Mostly clear

New program gives youth valuable job experience

MEDINA — If it weren’t for a new county youth employment program, 18-year-old Patricia Andrews said, “I don’t think I would have a job this summer.”

She’s not alone.

Patricia Andrews, 18, of Harrisville Township, left, supervises children at Lodi Family Center. Andrews found employment at the center by participating in a countywide youth employment program. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY MICHELLE SPREHE)

About 100 young people, ages 16 to 21, have jobs as a part of the eight-week program — a partnership of Medina County Job and Family Services, the county Workforce Development Center and a nonprofit group, Jobs for Ohio Graduates.

The aim of the program is to teach young people skills that are in demand today.

“We’re preparing these kids to become good employees,” said Chris Canova, executive director of the nonprofit. “Everyone benefits when we do that. By working, they’re paying taxes, and that, in itself, is a benefit to everybody as well.”

The program is funded by $210,000 in federal money administered by the state’s Office of Family Assistance.

The program is limited to young people from “needy families,” Canova said.

Canova said the need for the program is great.

The U.S. jobless rate, not seasonally adjusted, for teenagers ages 16 to 19 was 26.5 percent in June, compared with 8.4 percent for workers of all ages, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While lower than the June peak of 29 percent posted in 2010, during the worst of the last recession, the youth rate today is 12 percentage points higher than in June 2000.

“It’s the worst employment situation for youth since the Great Depression,” Canova said. “Employment for youth is not good — it’s not recovering as fast as the adults.”

Andrews of Harrisville Township is just happy to be working.

She was matched with a job at Lodi Family Center, where she works with children. The center is an after-school youth program that also provides a food pantry and parenting support.

“I love this job,” she said.

Rebecca Rak, the center’s director, has supervised teenagers from summer youth employment programs for several years.

“It gets kids working — plus they’re learning job skills so they can keep their job,” she said. “With this group, I would hire any one of them.”

Rak said she makes sure that during the eight-week program her employees learn integrity, honesty, how to dress appropriately and proper use of their time off.

“I know these kids are going to be in the workforce and will be able to keep their jobs,” she said. “It could mean one less family that’s impoverished and one less family we have to serve.”

Contact Michelle Sprehe at (330) 721-4048 or msprehe@medina-gazette.com.