Mayor Greg Fischer launched his SummerWorks jobs program for 2017 last week by setting a goal for a new record of employers involved, and proclaiming it necessary to ensure “a pipeline of future talent.”
“Summer jobs are critical building blocks for young people, and SummerWorks is crucial for the health of the local economy, because it creates a pipeline of future talent,” Mayor Fischer said. “We want Louisville’s business culture to be one where every company, large and small, hires or sponsors summer jobs for youth.”
A 2016 study confirmed the value of the effort. Young people participating in SummerWorks are more likely to stay in the workforce and pursue postsecondary education, according to an analysis of the program by the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics.
Last year, more than 140 companies and organizations hired SummerWorks youth. Mayor Fischer said momentum is already building for this summer, including many employers that will hire youth through the program for the first time, including Coastal Cloud, Hyatt Hotel, McDonald’s local franchises, MSD and the Speed Art Museum. Other companies, including GE and Humana, are doubling the number of young people they hire.
Today’s SummerWorks kickoff was at Kindred Healthcare, which plans to hire 10 youth this summer, after becoming a new SummerWorks employer last year.
The push for a stronger public/private partnership is being enhanced by Greater Louisville Inc., which is encouraging its member businesses to step up and support the program by hiring more young people for summer jobs.
“SummerWorks is an investment in the regional talent pipeline,” said Kent Oyler, president & CEO of Greater Louisville Inc. “Companies that hire young workers this summer are training people who may become their full-time employees. We want to rally our business community, get them involved In SummerWorks and connect our talented young people with the future career opportunities that exist in Greater Louisville.”
Companies and organizations that aren’t able to directly hire youth this summer can instead sponsor jobs. A donation of $2,500 funds a summer job at a non-profit organization or city agency.
Also today, Mayor Fischer announced a “challenge” donation of $250,000 to the SummerWorks program by businessman Paul Diaz and his family. Diaz is a former CEO of Kindred Healthcare and has been a volunteer advisor, donating a “huge amount of time, talent and advocacy” to help grow the summer jobs initiative.
SummerWorks this year will expand its focus on creating job experiences that build entrepreneurial skills in young people. Program organizers will set up six groups of youth to work as a start-up company in collaboration with local tech firms and creative agencies.
SummerWorks also will continue working closely with Jefferson County Public Schools to place students in jobs that match up with what they are learning in school, and jobs in the key business sectors the city is focused on growing, such as technology, healthcare and business services.
“Our students have a chance, through the SummerWorks program, to get out of the classroom and apply the skills they’ve learned at some of our city’s top employers,” said Dr. Donna Hargens, superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools. “In addition to expanding their learning experiences, our students also gain critical job experience and networking skills that will help them graduate prepared, empowered and inspired to reach their full potential.”
A new partnership with Louisville YouthBuild will bring expertise in helping at-risk youth who register for summer jobs. YouthBuild will provide additional mentoring and job-coaching for youth placed directly by staff, and will provide access to a network of supportive services and resources. SummerWorks and YouthBuild are striving to provide a more positive experience and stronger long-term outcomes for young people involved in the program.
SummerWorks, which is operated by KentuckianaWorks, the workforce development agency for the Louisville area, was recognized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2014 as one of the nation’s best summer jobs programs for young people.
The Mayor launched SummerWorks after taking office in 2011, in response to the elimination of federal funding for summer jobs. In that first year, the effort placed 200 young people in jobs. Last summer, more than 5,100 youth found summer work through the program and its champion employers.
Other businesses that have committed to hiring SummerWorks youth this year include 4th Street Live, Dare to Care, GlowTouch Technologies, Interapt, Kentucky Kingdom, Kroger, Louisville Zoo, Norton Healthcare, Oxmoor Auto Group, YMCA of Greater Louisville and UPS.
Both employers and youth participants can quickly sign up for or donate to the program at www.summerworks.org.