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The end of school is near, and thereâ€™s no time like the present for teenagers to try to find that summer job.
Lining up work with a private business is one way for teens to fill their free hours but that may not be an easy task given the areaâ€™s still-recovering economy.
There are also community-based jobs â€” funded through local governments, state agencies, or federal programs â€” that may still be available to interested job seekers.
The R.I. Department of Labor and Training partnered with the Governorâ€™s Workforce Board to combine different funding sources for a $2 million youth job program statewide last year and expects to announce a similar effort in the near future, according to Laura Hart, communications manager for the Department of Labor and Training.
â€śThe planning is in place to do some version of a summer jobs program this year,â€ť Hart said.
Some agencies contracting with the state to provide youth jobs such as Family Resources Community Action in Woonsocket are already in the process of filling their summer jobs from lists of applicants.
Stump Olsen, youth services manager for Family Resources Community Action, said the agency received 180 applications for the 75 jobs it will be filling at 12 different local work sites this year. The application process has closed and the agency is now conducting interviews and aligning prospective employees with available jobs, according to Olsen.
Family Resources places young people ages 14 to 24 in a wide range of job opportunities paid at minimum wage, $7.75 an hour, for 20 hours a week over the six weeks. The agency sends the young people to their various jobs and then keeps track of them, according to Olsen.
â€śThat is part of our job, to find work sites and supervise the kids,â€ť Olsen said.
Last year, the City of Woonsocket was a job site for 40 kids in the program and gave the young employees job experiences in city parks, recreation programs and public works projects, according to Olsen.
City employees supervised the youth in their jobs and â€śdid a great jobâ€ť while helping them to earn their first job experiences, according to Olsen.
â€śThey were super supportive and the kids had a great time,â€ť Olsen said.
Family Resources also sends its young workers to private businesses and other community organizations with available jobs. Some work at day camps during the summer, do office and administrative work and also provide janitorial and building maintenance services.
â€śIt depends on where they go. Every work site is different,â€ť Olsen said.
Although it gives young people initial job experience, said Sheila McGauvran, Woonsocketâ€™s director of public works, it does have its limitations as well. State law doesnâ€™t allow kids younger than 18 to use power equipment and young part-timers also have to be supervised by an adult while working, she said. The department of public works had most of the teens assigned to the city under the teen job program last year and provided most of them with work opportunities in Parks and Recreation, McGauvran said.
â€śItâ€™s unfortunate because the teenagers are at an age when they really want to work but they require constant supervision,â€ť McGauvran said.
Just assigning a supervisor to a teen work crew can present a challenge given the staffing cuts the city has enacted to balance its budget in recent years, McGauvran said.
The City of Pawtucket also provides teenagers in its community with summer jobs and puts most of them to work in the cityâ€™s Slater Park summer youth program. The Pawtucket summer workers are typically hired as program counselors to work in the outdoor parks program with the kids.
â€śWe usually have 25 positions to fill,â€ť Blais said.
The program, which pays counselors $8.50 an hour, was closing its application period on Friday and will start taking applications for kids wanting to participate in the Slater Park program May 31 beginning at 9 a.m.
The program operates two youth program sessions for approximately 250 kids each year.
Part of the interest in the program is due to the work put in by the cityâ€™s summer youth employees, Blais noted.
â€śWe have a fantastic staff and the staff is well known with the kids,â€ť Blais said.
About 200 of the kids participating in the program sign up for both sessions â€” running between July 8 and Aug. 16, Blais noted.
Like other urban communities in the state, Pawtucket has been forced to cut back on some of its municipal programs to address declining revenues and the youth jobs program was among those experiencing some reductions. Blais said the City Council is currently reviewing a request he submitted to add a couple of positions to the program this year.
Young job seekers can also apply directly to the state for summer positions that state agencies like the Department of Environment-al Management fill each year.
Most of the DEMâ€™s positions have already been filled for this year, according to Gail Mastrati, but some might still be available for jobs as lifeguards or for work in the state parks. The agencyâ€™s summer jobs pay between $7.75 and $13.75 per hour.
â€śWe start recruiting right around the beginning of the year to try to catch some of the college students coming home for the holidays,â€ť Mastrati said.
The DEMâ€™s jobs for summer employees usually involve a lot of contact with the public and can range from entry-level park rangers to beach staff and certified lifesaving staff.
There is always a possibility of a certified lifeguard finding a position somewhere at a DEM park; Mastrati suggested that interested job seekers visit the agencyâ€™s website at www.dem.ri.gov for listings of available jobs.
Hart said the jobs supported by the Department of Labor and Training are aimed at giving young people work experience and also work readiness training.
Although unemployment in the state has dropped from 10.6 percent at this time last year to 8.8 percent this week, youth employment still remains higher than the adult unemployment rate in the job market, according to Hart.
â€śThings are better but that still doesnâ€™t mean it is going to be easy,â€ť Hart said of the job search ahead of young people looking for summer work. â€śIt is going to be competitive but there are more jobs out there too.â€ť
More information on the workforce agencies partnering with the Department of Labor and the Governorâ€™s Workforce Board-Rhode Island can be found through the Department of Labor and Trainingâ€™s website at www.dlt.ri.gov.
Area workforce agencies partnering with state and federal programs specifically to assist job seeking youth include:
â€˘ Family Resource Community Action, 55 Main St., Woonsocket, 401-671-2971.
â€˘ Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island, 110 Eddy St., Providence, 401-444-0885.
â€˘ Pawtucket Youth Center at 172 Exchange St., 401-305-5919.
â€˘ Woodlawn Comm-unity Development Corp. in Pawtucket, 401-475-7632
â€˘ Weaver House, at 31 Grove St., East Providence, 401-640-8541.
The Department of Labor and Training is also partnered with the YouthWORK411 system, a network of 15 career exploration and work readiness centers around the state.
Also participating in that network are:
Seven Hill Rhode Island; SER Jobs for Progress in Pawtucket and Central Falls; The Rhode Island Marine Trades Association; Rhode Island Hospital; East Bay Community Action Program; and the Blackstone Valley Community Action Program at McColl Field serving Central Falls, Cumberland, Lincoln and Pawtucket.