Gearing up for summer employment opportunities

Spring has not quite sprung but that does not mean it is too early to start thinking about summer jobs.

The Washington County Department of Job and Family Services is gearing up for its Summer Youth Employment Program, which is currently accepting applications, said Candy Nelson, supervisor at Job and Family Services in Washington County.

“The program starts May 15, but when a kid can start depends on when their school lets out,” she said.

The program places youth in jobs with private, government, or nonprofit employers for the summer, giving them the opportunity to learn essential skills for finding and keeping a job, she said.

“The kid still has to go out and interview and apply for the job. We actually make them go through the employment process. It’s about teaching them how to get a job, how to work,” explained Nelson.

It’s also a good opportunity for young people to save up money for back-to-school clothes, gas or even college, she said.

For students to be eligible, they must live in Washington County and come from families that fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($3,925 a month or less for a family of four).

The program is open to students ages 16 or 17 and 18-year-olds as long as they are a full time secondary student. Participants can be up to age 24 if their family includes a minor child and meets the income guidelines.

Participating businesses also benefit from the program. A grant secured by the WCDJFS enables it to reimburse employers for wages they pay program participants, said Nelson.

“We reimburse 100 percent of the wages,” she explained.

Last year, some of the local municipalities and villages used youth from the program to help with clean up after the devastating June derecho, thereby saving a lot of overtime pay, she said.

The program is still looking for employers who would like to participate in this summer’s program. Businesses in surrounding counties and even West Virginia can participate, said Nelson.

Last year 150 students participated in the program doing anything from lifeguarding at the Village of Lowell swimming pool to working at fast food restaurants to helping at local daycare facilities.

But the types of available jobs are almost limitless. For students already on a career track, Nelson works to pair them with a job in their chosen field. For example, she has worked with students from the Washington County Career Center to find them jobs in health care or electrical fields.

Last year, 19-year-old Desarae Comstock, 19, of Marietta, interviewed and was hired for one of the few positions available at the Department of Job and Family Services.

It was a great opportunity, said Comstock.

“I really enjoyed it. Everyone who worked there was really nice,” she said.

Now Comstock will be able to put a position with a government agency on her resume, something that will help when it comes to this summer’s job search.

“Being able to put that on your resume at such a young age is a really big plus. People will look at you better,” she said.

Though funding has not been finalized for this year’s program, Nelson still hopes to host at least 150 participants again this year, she said.

“We want all the kids to get a chance to participate. We encourage them to be in all of their regular activities while they are working,” she said.

Applications can be found online at www.wcdjfs.org, in local high school offices, or at the WCDJFS office at 1115 Gilman Ave. Applications are due by April 30. For more information, call 373-5513.