Summer jobs program sets funding record

WESTFIELD – Highlighting the importance of early work experience and its correlation to long-term career success, Gov. Charlie Baker met last week with nearly 100 young people benefitting from the Commonwealth’s YouthWorks summer jobs program.
Approximately 4,000 teenagers across the Commonwealth are participating in the YouthWorks program this summer, which provides summer jobs in the public, non-profit and private sectors to lower-income young people ages 14 to 21.
In May, the Regional Employment Board (REB) of Hampden County hosted a kick-off at Shaker Farms Country Club for its 2015 Summer Jobs Program, connecting youth from Westfield, Springfield, Holyoke and Chicopee to career opportunities. The goal of the REB is to place 1,000 Hampden County youth in jobs this summer. 525 of those jobs are state subsidized for eligible youth through the YouthWorks summer jobs program. Youth employed through YouthWorks earn $9 per hour, work an average of 125 hours for six weeks, and receive 15 hours of workplace readiness and workplace safety training. Fifty of the YouthWorks slots are earmarked for Westfield.
YouthWorks is a state-funded program administered by the Commonwealth Corporation – a quasi-public state agency – on behalf of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The Fiscal Year 2016 budget signed by Baker earlier this month allocated $11.5 million to YouthWorks – the highest amount ever for the program – for next summer’s programming.
Massachusetts is one of the only states in the nation to invest in state-funded early work experiences and work-readiness programs for low-income young people.
Since 2007, more than 33,000 young people have been employed through YouthWorks.
At the Shaker Farms kickoff, Kat Okhrimenko, 22, a graduate of Westfield Vocational High School in business technology, spoke about her employment experience with the YouthWorks program at Westfield City Hall, where she sold stickers for the transfer station. She said her goal on the job was to make people smile. She also helped translate for Russian speakers.
“I loved this experience because it gave me something to do for the summer, and helped me to find myself. It made me more confident,” she said.
Okhrimenko is currently an intern with Aero Fastener in Westfield.
“With YouthWorks, we are aligning what employers tell us they need in future workers with experience, education and skill-building programs,” Baker said. “We need to replicate what works and do more of it so young men and women can find a path that leads them to a job and ultimately a career.”
Work experience is critically important for the long-term success of young people. Research shows teens who work have long-term gains in employment, future earnings, and educational outcomes.
Students who work up to 20 hours per week during high school are more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than students who do not work, research shows. Teens with early work experience also tend to attain work in higher-level occupations later in life, and tend to have jobs with pension plans and employer-provided health insurance.

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