Published by THE BLADE

May 24, 2023; STEPHEN ZENNER

School’s out and the temperatures are heating up in the Toledo region, signaling working opportunities for teenagers at a movie theater, ice cream stand, or nearby fast-food restaurant. “Every one of us probably remembers their first job. It’s that important,” Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said Wednesday during a news conference announcing registration for the l4th year of the Summer Youth Employment Program through Pathway, Inc. Lucas County Commissioner Lisa Sobecki concurred with Ms. Wozniak, and quickly reminisced about Ms. Sobecki’s first job on a “hay haulin’ crew” for her father.

Those who haven’t had a first job before grasp for some sort of experience to show to potential employers, Ms. Sobecki said, summarizing some of the barriers to employment for young individuals. “This is a job they can put on their resume,” Ms. Sobecki said of the program, which lasts seven working weeks, with one additional week of paid training before beginning to work for employers. In all, 68 students are already signed up for the summer’s youth employment program, maxing out the registration capacity for 2023.

“Those youth who have been determined eligible will be placed on a waiting list,” said Tomeka Rushing, director of employment and career services at Pathway, Inc. “And then of course, the youth who have not received an intake experience yet will be notified of other opportunities that are available within our community,” she said.

About 30 employers partner with the program to help children into their first working experience, and the Pathway Inc. is actively looking for more to partner with. Pete Gerken, president of the Lucas County commissioners, said the 14 to 18 age range gets “left behind by other people’s programs, so we’re hitting a spot that’s underserved by anybody else.” A hallmark of the program is financial literacy education through Local Initiative Support Corporation. It’s an opportunity for students to “earn while they learn,” Ms. Rushing said. “While they’re receiving that first paycheck, we actually help them to understand how to balance your hours, how to record your work
hours, the amount you should be expecting on your check out of a 40-hour work week,” Ms. Rushing said.

“And then actually access them to banking options to make sure that they are creative in receiving their money and being able to manage it as well,” she said. Ms. Rushing said the program will get youths “off the street, reduce crime, and also help them to earn a better wage and address generational poverty.”

Positions through summer’s youth employment program pay $ 1 3 an hour and provide 25 to 40 hours a week for the program’s eight weeks. “These kids take this money home for their families in the summer when there may not be other income, so not ashamed at all,” Mr. Gerken said of the payment amount. “I wish it could be more,” he said of the pay.

The Summer Youth Employment Program, which started in2009, has been successful, and has consistently waned, serving 100 children last year and as many as 700 childrenin2014, Mr. Gerken and Ms. Rushing reported.
Allocations from the county to the program have diminished. “The federal government over the years have reduced our allocation for sunmer youth,” while upholding the importance of the program, Mr. Gerken said. Another factor has been a larger program called the comprehensive case management employment program. That program was designed to replace the Summer Youth Employment Program, said Tonia Saunders, the Lucas County Department
of Planning and Development director. But the summer program continues because the state found that some youths were hesitant or not in a position to commit to the long-term year-round program, she said.