COAST CITIES — A troubling effect of the Great Recession is its impact on young workers. From April to July, the number of employed youth, ages 16 to 24, rose by 1.7 million to 18.6 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The share of young people employed in July was 48.8 percent, the lowest for July on record since statistics began in 1948.
Youth unemployment has become a hot button issue because of long-term consequences that can include loss of job readiness and skills, idleness and feelings of hopelessness that can lead to poverty and crime. Many young people feel the American Dream is beyond their reach.
North County high schools are working with employers to put students to work.
Laura Bunzli is a career guidance tech at El Camino High School in Oceanside.
“If an employer calls and gives me the position and contact info, I post it in the career center and put it in the daily bulletin that announces school happenings,” she said. “Students can come into the career center and find out who’s hiring. I’ll give them a printed sheet with contact info. I also have websites where they can look themselves.”
Other high schools including Torrey Pines offer work experience and internship programs with employers such Starbucks, the Golden Spoon, Flower Hill Flowers and Scripps Hospital.
Debra Brody is the WorkAbility coordinator for the San Dieguito Union High School District. The state-funded program provides pre-employment skills training, worksite training and follow-up services for youth (ages 12 to 22) in special education who are making the transition from school to work. This group includes those with developmental disabilities, autism, attention deficit disorder, dyslexia and vision and hearing deficits.
Brody reports that the economy has impacted her program.
“Most jobs traditionally filled by high school students are being filled by experienced adults,” she said. “Fast food restaurants are somewhat the exception, although jobs for teens under 18 are extremely hard to find.”
Brody said she’s had the best results with fast food restaurants and some grocery stores.
“If teens need money, the quickest way is babysitting, dog walking and doing odd jobs,” she added. “Meanwhile, they should volunteer because it beefs up the resume.”
Local businesses that have stepped up to the plate include Hansen’s Surf Shop, Detour Salon, Dogs & Suds, Scripps Hospital and LegoLand.
West Inn and Suites has participated in the WorkAbility program for three years, pairing employees with staff under the direction of Carl Holmes, housekeeping manager. A year ago Holmes was recognized for his leadership by the U.S. Congress and California State Senate.
Participants such as Danny Arellano have thrived under Holmes’ guidance, advancing to permanent positions after the completion of subsidized training.
“We love these kids,” said Kimberly Akers, vice president of hospitality. “They are a real part of the team. They are never late and have a real willingness to serve. Danny has an eye for detail and has been cross-trained.”
Danny says the best part of the job is getting a paycheck and meeting people.
“My parents are proud of me,” he said. “That feels good.”
Blaze Newman is a teacher and school site coordinator of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Program for the San Dieguito Union High School District. The program is targeted to students who don’t traditionally go on to college.
Newman just launched a job shadowing program, linking students with professionals.
“One student thought he wanted to be a veterinarian,” she said. “After shadowing Dr. Milton Gee for a day he has a more tangible vision of what the job entails. At the end of the day he said, ‘We spayed two dogs!’ He felt connected and involved.”
Newman says another senior worked a 24-hour shift with an engineer with the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Department.
A computer game designer, pharmaceutical sales representative, CEO, elementary school teacher, nurse practitioner and neo-natal hospital nurse have also signed up to serve as hosts.
“This is a start-up program that is going to expand significantly this year and I would love to hear from anyone interested in hosting a student,” Newman said. “I am looking for professionals working mostly in jobs that require four-year degrees.”
Newman can be contacted at [email protected]