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Northampton Youthworks to help teens find summer jobs

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz says the goal of the Northampton Youthworks program again this summer is to promote youth employment and match teens with employers in the community.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz says the goal of the Northampton Youthworks program again this summer is to promote youth employment and match teens with employers in the community. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Purchase photo reprints »

Organizers of the Northampton Youthworks program, which last summer helped 16 teens find seasonal employment, said they think the program can do the same this year for up to 20 city youths ages 14 to 21.

“I was pleased with the first summer of the program in 2012 and I’m hopeful about this summer,” Mayor David Narkewicz said Monday. “The goal is to promote youth employment and match them with employers in the community.”

Jim Parcells, director of Franklin Hampshire Career Center Youth Programs, said young adults can learn more about and apply to the Youthworks Program and also find information about long-term employment at a Youth Career and Job Fair at the Franklin Hampshire Career Center today starting at 9 a.m. The fair is free and open to anyone under 24.

About 22 potential employers will be at the event at 178 Industrial Drive in Northampton, including Smith College, Freedom Credit Union, Cooley Dickinson Hospital, L-3 KEO, Yankee Home Improvement and the Northampton Fire Department.

Northampton Youthworks is run by the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board and Career Centers with help from the mayor’s office and $35,000 to $40,000 in state funding. Qualifying young people must be low-income city residents.

The funds are used to pay young people $8 per hour wages at participating employers, which last year included Goodwill, JFK Middle School, the Northampton Community Music School and the Three County Fair Association. If the participating employer is a private company, the business is required to pay 20 percent of the wages over the six to eight weeks of employment.

Parcells said even though the state budget is not finalized, he expects enough funding to come through to employ 15 to 20 young people. Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposed budget included $11 million to support these programs across the state in qualifying communities.

Parcells said that nationwide, 25 to 30 percent of teens 16 to 19 worked last summer, compared to 52 percent in 2000. The recession is probably to blame for some of that decline, he said.

“Other age groups seem to have bounced back from the recession, but teens never did,” he said. “More adults are unemployed now, so businesses hire them instead of teens because they have more experience.”

And with municipalities making cuts due to budget deficits, some of the usual public sector jobs teens did just don’t exist anymore, he said.

The program is a win-win for the community, Parcells said, because it employs and trains youth and provides local businesses, nonprofits and municipal entities with very affordable labor.

“We pay the wages but they’re the employers. They train and supervise them,” he said. The centers also offer 12 hours of workshops to the young workers on topics including safety, work readiness and career exploration.

Narkewicz said that the city jobs they can try for the summer go beyond the usual teen positions like lifeguard and camp counselor.

They could work with the maintenance and custodial staff in a public school, do administrative work for the Northampton Council on Aging or work as aides in the culinary arts program at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School.

“Those positions offer opportunities to get real world job experience in some specific areas,” he said. “The fact that they are city agencies is an added bonus.”

That experience and any connections they make with area employers “may turn into other job opportunities down the road,” Narkewicz said.

A Youthworks application and more information are available at www.fhyouth.org.

Program organizers are also looking for businesses and organizations to employ the young workers. For more information call the Career Center at 413-774-4361.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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