Mayor to host youth summer job fair
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa
Toledo Mayor Mike Bell put out a call to local businesses to participate in a youth job fair later this month at the Erie Street Market, hoping area firms will step up to give teens some positive and productive work experience this summer.
“We are trying to do some positive things for our youth this summer and for their future,” said Mayor Bell. “We want some of the industries in our community be able to see some of the talent we have here in our community. We want businesses to step up and have representation there, so they can come out and see some of these young people, see if there’s a possibility to give them some employment.”
The mayor stated that aside from recreational activities, Toledo youth need opportunities to develop responsibility, accountability, and to occupy their time over the summer months when school is out. So the city will sponsor the youth job fair for teens ages 14-19, which will be held from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, March 31, 2012—this is the same day as the University of Toledo’s LSU annual scholarship dance.
“A lot of people sit on the sidelines and they watch. But here’s an opportunity to do something for our young people,” said the mayor, standing behind a podium surrounded by a group of seven local high school students. “We want to make sure we’re putting our best foot forward with our young people. We want to make sure this next generation of youth doesn't leave our town, that they feel loved by their ability to get jobs.”
The mayor stated that more than a dozen businesses already have committed to the job fair, including Best Buy, Kroger, McDonalds, UMADAOP, Grace Community Center, and others.
Traditional summer youth employment programs have fallen by the wayside in recent years, as the regional economy faltered and local governments did not have the extra funds to put toward such an effort. At the same time, many jobs traditionally held by teens at fast-food restaurants retail stores, and seasonal employment have gone to older, more experienced people who also were seeking employment. Many retirees have returned to the workforce, at least on a part-time basis, to help make ends meet.
“Before, we used to have people stepping up and doing things for our young people,” the mayor lamented. “So what we’re trying to do is re-engage our business community. We’re starting to come out of this recession; things are starting to be a little bit more positive in our community. So we need to come back and focus on our young people so they have a sense of responsibility within our community.”
One teen at the press conference admitted he was lucky enough to have the connections to find employment each summer, but stated many of his peers struggle to find somewhere to work.
“I worked for the Boy Scouts of America watching little kids and helping them get their merit badges,” said Major Simms, a senior at Toledo Technology Academy and part of the Mayor’s Youth Council. “But there are some things that kids will love to do that they don’t know about, so this teen job fair will help them get to where they want to work at.”
The Bell administration met last week with representatives from the Northwest Ohio Building and Construction Trades, Northwest Ohio Carpenters Council and others.
While the mayor would like to see such young people also hired in the short-term by contractors who are awarded $28 million worth of road work this year, and possibly $36 million worth of improvements to the city’s aging water system, skilled-trades unions and construction firms may only be able to commit to drawing teens into apprenticeship programs long-term.
“We want to be able to see how we can get young people, possibly between the ages of 18 and 25, engaged in what we are going to be doing as a city,” said Mayor Bell. “They were very open in explaining to us exactly what needs to be happening.”
Construction firms and trade unions agreed to take part in the youth job fair to screen a possible pool of applicants to become future journeymen.
“What we’re also doing is realizing there’s going to be a shortage of those types of people in the future, concrete masons and things like that,” said the mayor, referring to the future retirements among the baby-boom generation. “So getting our young people involved who may not want to go to college and want to do something different, we can give them an opportunity a different way. When the older generation moves on, you’re going to have to have this legacy of people to get jobs.”
Interested businesses in participating in the youth job fair are urged to contact Bill Stewart, special assistant to the mayor, at 419.245.1004.