Push for student employment kicks off for summer season

The number of job applicants will start to spike this week as school is done for the summer and footloose students seek seasonal employment. 

At first blush, the list of candidates appears modest, but as the National Workforce Development Agency’s Manager of Employment Services Lois Kellyman and her indefatigable Outreach Coordinator Jean Solomon ponder job placement and the corrosive effects of unemployment, the larger those numbers loom. 

“We keep them off the streets, and you won’t see them in Northward or Fairbanks,” Ms Solomon said, recalling all-too-familiar outcomes for idle, bored youth, facing a long hot summer and few prospects for earning pocket money – or occupying the 1,440 hours that comprise July and August. 

She said she has been looking at 22 candidates since early April, but with school out for the summer, expects the numbers to jump starting this week. 

“I do between 30 and 35 in any given week,” she said, “and in 2001, I personally placed 200 people.” Those figures include not just students, but prisoners at both Northward and Fairbanks, and others from girls and boys homes.  

“We’re looking for outcomes that are tangible,” Ms Solomon said, referring to regular consultations with scores of local businesses, persuading them to accept part-time summer workers and others on a more regular basis. 

“We have a lot companies that are registered with us,” said Ms Kellyman. “They tell us about their full-time needs and we ask about interns or summertime employees.” 

Ms Solomon elaborated: “We bring in the organisations to see how they recruit and what they are looking for, what is expected. It’s imperative that we know what processes are delivered.” 

The NWDA pair estimate nearly 475 companies are registered with their office. Each has accepted recruits at one time or another, supporting larger and longer-term agency training and recruitment programmes. 

Among the list are Dart Realty, Phoenix Construction, Kirk Freeport, Burger King, Popeyes, law firms Maples, Walkers and Ritch and Conolly, Caledonian Bank, Off the Peg, Young World, Hi-Tech, Paint Pros, Reflections, UCCI, Cayman Airways, Fosters, Kirks and Hurley’s. 

”Kids go there and start as baggers and shelf stockers. It’s not complicated and they earn a little pocket money,” Ms Solomon said. “One girl said she was able to buy books and school shoes because her mom could not afford them.” 

A second resource for summertime employment is the government itself, the Ministry of Tourism, in particular. For three years, the organisation has administered a programme for part-time workers, developing an arrangement by which the agency refers candidates and the ministry places them. 

“That has gone very well,” said Ms Solomon. “They pay out of their budget, place people in government departments as they are needed, say, in the Pensions Department, for example. 

“There are lots of kids applying and they try to recruit as they would normally, based on meetings and ‘pre-interviews’.” 

She spends time writing letters, and, when necessary, attending meetings with human resource departments and recruiters, persuading them to help.  

“My role is outreach, and that means tapping into the community, collaborating whenever needed,” Ms Solomon said. “We don’t just do summer placements, but jobs for prisoners, we help writing resumes for those who have trouble doing so.” 

She recalls youth that have come to her, seeking work, but with little understanding of appropriate the dress, behaviours and attitudes necessary to the workplace.  

Her favourites are the successful ones: The young man who went on to study aviation, ultimately qualifying as an airline pilot; the young lady she placed at the front desk of the Coral Stone Club, who ultimately went into the hospitality industry and now works for Dart; another woman who appeared with dyed-red hair and heavy boots, but eventually realised her US-college attire was inappropriate: “She came back to us recently, and now dresses and speaks well, answers telephones politely.” 

Both Ms Kellyman and Ms Solomon are passionate about their work, seeing a greater purpose than simply finding jobs for the unemployed, and driving down statistics. They are, in a very real sense, building communities. 

Ms Solomon persuaded recruiters at Ritch and Conolly to accept three interns beyond the two they already employed; the firm complained when at least one proved so exemplary that the company didn’t want her to finish the two-week programme. 

“Every person has a voice and we need to listen to them,” she said. “Collaboration and partnership are key. It is a product we are selling. 

“They ask: Why this kid? But we are like a village,” she said, recalling the need for community and cooperation articulated by former US First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “We should be holding hands together to make a better outcome for everyone.” 

If you can motivate changes – and lend direction – to three people, even two people, out of five, she said, you have made a mark, helped build a better community.  

The women agree that a looming obstacle to their work has been a difficult economy. 

“It’s really hard this year,” Ms Kellyman said. “It’s so tough because of the economy, and there may be more kids than ever looking [for work] because it’s affected so many families, everyone, and they are looking to take some of the burden off their families.”