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REB ready to help teens find jobs

By Courtney Llewellyn
Reminder Assistant Editor

GREATER SPRINGFIELD For younger students, summer vacation is a time of freedom sleeping late, watching cartoons and playing until the sun goes down. For older students, however, the two month break is a time to get a job and make some money.
Finding a summer job this year may be a difficult task for youth, however.
The Regional Employment Board of Hampden County Inc. (REBHC) is coordinating with the Hampden County Youth Council and public and private sector employers in an effort to place 1,600 youth in both part- and full-time positions this summer.
"Are there 1,600 positions in Hampden County? The answer is yes," Michael Chechette, Youth Program Manager at REBHC, said. "As we are all well aware the economy for the past 15 months has done very poorly, and job losses have been staggering. However, this has not effected traditional and non-traditional summer positions. The Regional Employment Board through its contracted WIA [Workforce Investment Act] and YouthWorks vendors have cultivated over 300 summer job positions.
"Most of the summer positions are considered 'subsidized work experiences' in the public sector and therefore are not competing with the private sector jobs that more and more adults are taking that used to be primary sources of jobs for teens," Chechette continued.
Most of the positions are funded for a seven-week period, pay minimum wage and offer no benefits.
The REBHC has been offering the Summer Jobs Campaign for Youth for eight years, and now includes the cities of Springfield, Holyoke and Chicopee. According to Kathryn Kirby, Youth Employment Coordinator for REBHC, 952 youths had jobs last summer. They plan to nearly double that number this year with the help of stimulus funds and additional employer support.
"The Regional Employment Board received these [federal] funds because they ... have the infrastructure in place to act swiftly in transitioning the stimulus money into the local economy," Chechette explained. "Additionally, these funds will provide high support for youth who are at-risk and will focus on academics, as well as additional summer positions."
"The REB looks to private and public sector employers to provide jobs for youth," Kirby said. "However, an employer can become a worksite for either the YouthWorks state funded summer jobs program or the WIA federally funded summer jobs program. Youth are placed in a variety of jobs which include retail, office, daycare, parks and recreation, community centers, dance studio, educational institutions, YMCA, hair salon and manufacturing. Our programs match youth skills to job opportunities. The employer has the final say on hire."
The REBHC is currently looking for employers interested in offering a summer job. Those who are interested can contact Kirby at 755-1359 or kkirby@rebhc.org.
Those who do not have positions available can also donate $150 to the REBHC, which will help pay the wages of a youth for one of the weeks the youth would be working in a community betterment project. The average amount of time a youth can work in one week with a $150 stipend is 18 hours.
"That's 18 hours of time spent in a safe working environment, learning new skills and earning a pay check versus spending the summer months bored and with nothing to do," Kirby said.
Senquisity McGill, a 15-year-old Springfield resident, understands that. "I want to do something and make some money," she said of her desire for a summer job. The search hasn't been going well, though.
"I filled out an application for Six Flags three times, and I haven't heard anything," she said. She added that she's still on the waiting list for a position with New England Farm Workers. "If I can't find anything soon, I guess I'll just have to wait until next year."
If you're a teen in McGill's position, contact the REBHC to see if a summer job is available. Log on to www.rebhc.org for more information.