Creating Jobs For Our Students

The Vt. Bernie Buzz

As the national youth unemployment rate reaches record highs, programs across the state of Vermont are addressing the need for young people to make the most of their summers by honing skills they need to land a job.

In Burlington, the Vermont Department of Labor-sponsored the Summer Work and Learn Program to give at-risk youths the opportunity to gain job experience while receiving an academic boost. Now in its 13th year, the program, which is run with cooperation from the Burlington School District, provides its 30 participants, ranging from 14 years old to 17 years old, with breakfast, lunch and school supplies.

The best part? “We get paid for it,” said a 14-year-old-student who will attend Burlington High school next year. The program’s participants are paid for their work, which are often outdoor landscaping projects. “They foster a sense of pride and ownership for the kids,” said program director Henri Sparks, who also serves as equity director of the Burlington School District.

With a youth unemployment rate of 13 percent last year, Vermont is faring better than most states of youth joblessness.  Youth unemployment is expected to cost the U.S. $18 billion in lost wages over the next decade according to a report citing Bloomberg Senior Economist Joseph Bruseulas. The national unemployment rate for Americans aged 16 to 24 is more than double the 7.5 jobless rate for all Americans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In early July, Sen. Bernie Sanders visited two summer camp programs in Franklin County geared toward giving counselors work experience and a paid stipend. Campers also received an academic boost during the summer months when students are most likely to lose math and reading skills. Sanders successfully included a $1.5 billion youth employment program to the Senate’s immigration bill to help employ teens at programs like the free day camps run by the Northern Tiers Center for Health (NOTCH) in Richford, Vt., and the St. Albans City Recreation Department.

“This program will help hundreds of thousands of young Americans find jobs and earn the skills they need to build strong careers,” Sanders said. “At a time when the unemployment rate for these young people is twice that of the rest of the country, it is absolutely imperative that Congress help them find jobs. The establishment of a youth employment program for 400,000 young people is a good step forward in addressing our unemployment crisis. Obviously more needs to be done in the months to come.”

Sanders’s Youth Jobs Bill would set aside $1.5 billion over two years for states to fund summertime and full-time jobs for more than 400,000 16- to 24-year-olds. Each state stands to receive $7.5 million, which would create about 2,000 jobs for Vermont.