Hitting Home: Summer Employment
08/31/09 9:23AM By Lynne McCrea  Download MP3
(Host) We continue our series about how the recession is "Hitting Home" with a look at summer employment.
The economic downturn has meant that many high school and college students faced a tight job market this season.
But as VPR's Lynne McCrea reports, federal stimulus money provided some young Vermonters with better-than-ever work opportunities.
(McCrea) Jeb Partner is one of a small crew of young people that's been restoring stonework at Hubbard Park in Montpelier.
(Partner) "I'm just going to put some new mud in here, where these top caps fell off from the pillar..."
(McCrea) He's been working here since June, after months of looking for a job.
(Partner) "I've been struggling to find a job for a while until this. It's definitely been helpful, you know."
(McCrea) Jeb, who is 23, was able to get this summer job through the Vermont Department of Labor. And it's thanks to federal stimulus money.
(Greenwood) "It's been really great. I think we have put close to a thousand Vermont youth to work."
(McCrea) Jim Greenwood is Director of Workforce Development at the Department of Labor. He says money from the stimulus package has doubled the funding for Vermont's summer work program - and that means many young people who would not have had summer jobs in the past ... were able to get work this year.
(Greenwood) "And our criteria for our stimulus money was that we work with youth that are at risk - out of school, dropped out, haven't gotten a high school diploma yet... the goal here and the mission is to get kids interested in a career, and through this work experience we hope it will entice them to go back to school..."
(McCrea) That's exactly what's happened for 21-year-old Tamira Bushey, of Barre. She's been working this summer as a dietary aid at a local nursing home ...
("You've got house diets, and DT diets - which is diabetics...")
Her job includes delivering trays of food to the residents, and washing dishes at the end of meals.
(Bushey) "I'd probably still be looking for work if it wasn't for the youth summer program. I was looking for a long time, and if I didn't find this job I'd probably be somewhere I didn't want to work".
(McCrea) More importantly, Tamira's job at the nursing home has inspired her to develop some new skills and explore a career in nursing.
(Bushey) "I like the kitchen-the kitchen is fun. But with the youth summer program, it's expanded my eyes to the whole medical field, being in a medical place. I'm actually going to be going for my LNA starting in September. And maybe I'll even go for my RN someday."
(McCrea) Tamira plans to start classes soon at Community College of Vermont - and she may just be part of a trend. Enrollment at the five state colleges is up 10% over last year.
The Chancellor of the state colleges, Tim Donovan, says a special program for high school students to take CCV courses tripled in use. And overall enrollment was up 15% over last summer - a number that Donovan calls ‘significant'.
(Donovan) "There are a number of factors that could have influenced that, but I suspect that the absence of summer jobs - for high school students and young college students - may have been a factor"
(Sounds of stonework at Hubbard Park)
(McCrea) For Jeb Partner, a summer job at Hubbard Park brought some benefits along with a paycheck...
(Partner) "I've learned a lot about carpentry - not necessarily masonry because I've done this before - but I mean it's been a great experience to do some real work... and, I think I look a little more healthy, little more muscle tone, things like that..."
(McCrea) But in an economy that continues to be sluggish, what are the long term prospects for these summer employees?
Jim Greenwood of the Labor Department acknowledges it's not an easy job market.
(Greenwood) "Certainly that's a challenge. But yes, in certain sectors there are jobs - carpentry, if you look into the green industry, weatherization programs, etc. - and there is stimulus money to create jobs IN those arenas. Another one would be healthcare so, it has been very successful".
(McCrea) And that's what some of the participants in
the youth work program hope for.
(Bushey) "It's been a great summer - working, learning, meeting friends. And now it's expanding on my education."
(McCrea) Like so many other young Vermonters, Tamira Bushey wants to build on her summer work experience and eventually move into a career that will offer stable, long term employment in the years ahead.
For VPR News, I'm Lynne McCrea.