CLEVELAND — Summer is still months away, but that’s not stopping one group from recruiting Cleveland’s teens for jobs.
The Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U) team says they need help from local employers to help hire the city’s youth this summer. The program helps the teens become self-sufficient while matching them with jobs and a one-on-one case manager to keep them on track. It also aims to strengthen Northeast Ohio’s workforce.
“Thirty percent of the population in Cleveland are below the poverty line and so people need good jobs that can pay a living wage so they can take of themselves and their families,” said Brittany Atkinson, Manager of the summer Y.O.U Youth Program.
Atkinson says job availability isn’t necessarily the problem. She says a lot of it has to do with lack of experience and systematic barriers like transportation, housing and hunger.
“Those are thing that if you’re worried about them, you’re not really worried about practicing your communication skills.”
But the pandemic isn’t helping either. Many jobs and opportunities for Cleveland’s teens were lost as partnering employers were no longer able to take on the program’s teens.
“In a typical year we would have a job for like 2,000 or more youth. Last summer we placed 839,” she said. “
Aimee Hobrath was one of the teens placed with a job last year. She joined the program at just 15-years-old looking for a way to help her mom pay bills.
“I wasn’t old enough to have an actual job yet and this program is actually used for youth whose parents don’t make enough money and so I originally joined to help my mom out,” Hobrath said.
Once Hobrath joined Y.OU. she was able to land a job hiring employees her age and earn more than just a few hours of pay.
“I was like making minimum wage for my first job and then I was making 10 dollars an hour for my second job,” she said.
But it did more than just put a few bucks in her pocket. Hobrath says the program motivated her to want more out of life. She is now training for the Navy to kick off her career and eventually go to college.
“It helped just kind of push me and give me drive to like want to be more successful.”
To learn more about the program and how to help, click here.