Center Maryland: Wanted: Summer jobs

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Editor’s note: The following commentary appeared on CenterMaryland.org on June 19, 2015.

By Donald C. Fry

If you are a business owner selling products or service what’s the main thing you want besides great employees?

Lots of customers, right?

Well, as chairman of the Hire One Youth summer jobs initiative, I’m delighted to say we have plenty of customers this summer.

In fact, it has more applicants than it’s ever had – 8,000.

Problem is, we just don’t have enough product – jobs – to go around yet this summer.

As of this writing, we need more summer job slots for young workers.

That’s why, with city officials, the GBC has come up with a solution that will benefit these eager young workers as well as businesses that have interest in taking on a summer intern, but may not have the budget to afford a summer intern paycheck.

Here’s the deal: To ensure as many of the applicants as possible are placed in work positions this summer, the program will underwrite the salary of $8.25 per hour for companies that agree to take on a young intern from July 13 to Aug. 14.

Enough money has been kicked in from city, state and other sources to fund all of these positions.

We just need businesses that may be holding back to take the plunge.

Participating in the program is a smart thing to do from a business perspective. In fact, 98 percent of the companies that participated last year responded in a survey that they had a positive experience with their interns and would definitely recommend it to another company, the city’s Youth Works program found.

And, with the city getting back on its feet from the civil unrest this spring, it’s also a great way for the business community to show that it understands that putting young people to work this summer part of the solution to helping bridge some of the divides in Baltimore.

From a bigger picture perspective, the economy and the job market are finally getting traction after a number of down or flat years.  Our youth population, though, still is struggling when it comes to jobs. Indeed, youth unemployment is at 11.6 percent nationwide for ages 16 to 24. For African-American youths its much higher – 20 percent.

That’s a lot of untapped valuable talent and energy idled.

You’ll be hiring terrific summer interns like Tynefa Mason, the GBC’s summer intern this year.  The 18-year-old hopes to one day earn a law degree and go on to work as an attorney.

And thanks to the Hire One Youth program Tynefa is getting daily exposure to the professional office environment in the GBC’s office.

The work exposure for Tynefa has ranged so far from meeting expectations from her GBC mentor for assigned tasks, supporting and participating in team meetings, and watching and learning how strong interpersonal skills and idea generation are key  in the highly competitive global economy that Tynefa and her generation will face.

Tynefa has been with the GBC just a few weeks, and already she tells us she’s finding the experience invaluable.

“Seeing how a professional office works and seeing how you need to communicate and get things done is more important to me than the pay,” said Tynefa. “It’s really opening my eyes to the possibilities for my future.”

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

Donald C. Fry is president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee and chairman of the Hire One Youth initiative. He is a regular contributor to Center Maryland.  

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