45 teen summer jobs in region end sooner than hoped

New London - About 45 local teenagers found out last week that their summer jobs were coming to an abrupt end.

The teens, who worked at businesses in southeastern Connecticut as part of the New London Youth Affairs youth training and employment program, were informed last week that Aug. 1 was to be their last work day of the summer.

The program, which began the first week in July, was cut short for the teens because the program placed more teens than in prior summers but did not receive the same level of funding, according to Cindy Alvarez, a program coordinator for New London Youth Affairs.

"It's supposed to be a four-week program, and if we have extra (funding) we can make it five to six weeks," Alvarez said. "We notified the work site supervisor and teen as soon as we found out that we weren't going to have enough funding to pay them for another week."

The program is primarily funded by EASTCONN, an educational services provider, and the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board.

Alvarez said the program always reminds the teens who apply that the program's funding is not set in stone until July 1, when a new fiscal year begins. The teens will be paid for every hour they worked, she said.

This year, Alvarez said, 348 teenagers applied to participate in the program. New London Youth Affairs was able to place 148 in summer jobs at 33 different businesses and organizations, including New England Science and Sailing and the Mystic Aquarium, she said.

"In the past we served less kids and the program was maybe five weeks, but now we serve more youths," Alvarez said. "We were struggling with deciding do we place more teens and give them three paychecks or do we place a few less teens and give them four paychecks. It's not a win-win situation when you have so many applications and you can't place them all."

In some cases, teens were assigned to work at camps or other programs that conclude this week, Alvarez said.

"Some worksites were going to end this week anyways," she said. "So even if we had the funding to keep those youths in the program, we would have had to find new work placements for them."

Five students spent four weeks working at The Drop-In Learning Center, which offers public child care services and children's enrichment programs.

"I had the opportunity to work with some wonderful youths, and for all of them it was their first job," Executive Director Reona Dyess said. "We want to make their first work experience is something that they can grow from, learn from and use to build their career and their future."

Dyess said the teens working with her organization were told Friday that it was their last day of work.

"If they have jobs for only 100 people, they need to stick with only 100 people; we don't want something like this to happen again," she said. "These kids could have gotten another summer job on their own, but who is going to hire them now for only three weeks?"

Despite the sudden end to this summer's program, Dyess said, The Drop-In Learning Center has benefitted from being a work placement for teens in the Youth Affairs program for more than 10 years.

"This is a program I really believe in. I have nothing bad to say about it," she said. "There are kids who came through the program who I later hired because I liked their work ethic. These are young people that are a product of our community, they're giving back to the community, and we can invest in them as future employees."

Twitter: @ColinAYoung


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