The traditional summer youth employment program sponsored by the federal government probably will not be available this year because of limitations of the new Workforce Investment Act. But with a low unemployment rate in most areas of the state, most youths are expected to be able to find employment on their own.
Mississippi Employment Service director Curt Thompson said that the Workforce Investment Act that is taking the place of the Job Training Partnership Act doesn’t eliminate the summer youth employment program. But it requires the summer youth employment program to coordinate with all of the other programs that are offered to youth.
“It puts emphasis on total training at work rather than just a short-term summer job,” Thompson said. “A problem now is we can’t get all the legal requirements set up in time to run a summer youth program.”
However, the City of Jackson and the Delta Council are both working to provide some kind of summer youth employment program. While the prospects of being able to find private employment are good in Jackson and other heavily populated areas, in Jackson many non-profit organizations have traditionally relied on summer youth employment programs to help staff their programs.
In more rural areas of Mississippi such as the Delta, it is difficult for youths to find summer jobs. The summer youth employment programs have helped not only provide income, but give young people the opportunity to learn skills and develop an employment history.
“The summer youth program is incredibly important,” says Mark Manning, director of development for the Delta Council. “Young people who otherwise would not have the opportunity have been able to be employed and get educational opportunities. Obviously, if a young person has an opportunity to learn about the world of work, they have a much better chance to do well in school and become productive citizens.”
Manning said their local workforce board decided to pursue opportunities for a summer youth employment program. The South Delta Planning and Development District is working on securing funding. The Delta Council hopes to proceed with the program in order to have continuity instead of being forced to start all over with a summer program in a year or two.
“We hope we are going to get it done,” Manning said. “There may be some opportunities for funding. In addition to that, we are willing to put some of our own workforce development funds into the summer program. It is, quite frankly, extremely important to a lot of organizations here, especially volunteer or non-profit organizations and even governmental agencies that are trying to deliver services with limited resources. They need that help in the summer.”
Thompson said in more heavily populated areas of the state, job prospects are good. It helps that this is the year of the Census, which will provide jobs going into the summer. Thompson said a large number of people are currently being hired to work on the Census. There are also a lot of other employment opportunities in the current tight job market.
“I don’t think the demand has fallen off at all,” Thompson said. “A lot of employers are looking for students who would work not only this summer but throughout the year. People should be able to find something. With the economy as strong as it is, the opportunities should be good. It depends on what kind of work you want to do. That is always the limiting factor.”
Jane Fleming, supervisor in the Biloxi office of the Mississippi Employment Security Commission, agreed that the jobs that are open are not always the kind of work that people want to do.
“We have a hard time finding people for almost every category, but particularly some of the lower-paying service industry jobs,” Fleming said. “There are some cashier jobs available right now, but a lot of those are in casinos, which is not good for young people because of the age limit.”
Despite the lack of a summer youth job program on the Coast, Fleming said that anyone past the age of 15 who puts effort into finding a summer job should be able to find employment.
The general employment market on the Coast is still tight, but may not be as tight as in the past. Fleming said a lot of people continue to move to the Coast because they have heard the area is growing and that jobs are available. While most of the jobs are in the service industry, some higher-paying technical jobs are also available.
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at firstname.lastname@example.org or (228) 872-3457.