By Peter H. Milliken
The summer employment program for young people from low-income families, which had been slated for termination by the state, will return next year, Robert E. Bush Jr., Mahoning County Job and Family Services director, has told the county commissioners.
Bush said Thursday that he had received an emailed announcement Wednesday from Joel Potts, director of the Ohio Job and Family Services Directors’ Association, saying the summer jobs program will be back next year.
The association represents county JFS directors.
“We’re ecstatic, and, obviously, the governor’s office and us – the counties – agree that this [summer youth employment] is an important component of the Comprehensive Case Management [and Employment] Program,” which is a career development program, Potts said in an interview.
“We anticipate every eligible in-school youth wanting to participate in employment during the summer of 2017 to have that opportunity,” Cynthia C. Dungey, Ohio Department of JFS director, wrote in a Friday afternoon email to county JFS directors.
“At the conclusion of summer employment, the No. 1 goal is for these youth to return to school and succeed in their education,” she added.
“These young people will get more than just a summer job. Over the course of the entire year, they’ll be getting the support and skills they need to complete their education and find a rewarding career as an adult,” said Jon Keeling, an Ohio JFS spokesman.
Bush said he’ll likely learn funding details and the number of youths who can be served next spring.
Bert Cene, director of the Workforce Development Board of Mahoning and Columbiana Counties, said the program’s return is good news.
“It teaches work ethic and it provides something for a resume that they actually gained some work experience,” Cene said.
The program benefits college students, who may be available for work only during summers; and the wages paid to summer workers stimulate the local economy, he added.
The Workforce Development Board oversees the Mahoning-Columbiana Training Association, which administers the summer work program for Mahoning County JFS.
The administration of Gov. John Kasich had proposed earlier this year to abolish the summer youth employment program and redirect its $45 million budget to the new, year-round, statewide Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program, which was to have a $100 million annual budget.
“There was a lot of push-back to the state, especially from the large metropolitan areas,” against canceling the summer jobs program, Cene observed.
The federally funded, state-administered summer youth jobs program employed some 250 workers between age 17 and 24 this past summer in Mahoning County.
The workers earned at least $9 an hour in the eight-week program at government and private business worksites, with their wages paid from federal funds.
Mahoning County program worksites have included the city street and park departments and county engineer’s and dog warden’s offices.
With Mahoning County JFS having determined applicant eligibility, MCTA administered the 2016 summer program under a $950,000 agreement with the county commissioners.
The county has had the program in its present form for five years, but the program’s federal roots go back to the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973.
The summer jobs program lets young people “see what it’s like to actually work in a position,” said Carol Rimedio-Righetti, chairwoman of the Mahoning County commissioners.
“I’m 100 percent in favor of that, and, if they [state officials] ever want to cut it, I’d be your best advocate” in defense of the summer youth jobs program, she told Bush.
“It puts a few bucks in their pockets. It gives them some real time and real-life work experience, and it gives them something to build on,” Bush said of the program’s benefits for participants.
“I’m glad that the state has seen that there’s value in the program,” said Eileen Dray-Bardon, Columbiana County JFS director.
Dray-Bardon said she expects the 2017 summer jobs program will include job-readiness classroom training.
This year, in Columbiana County, the popular summer jobs program had 234 workers, was funded at $822,278, included both public- and private-sector employers, and featured 72 work sites, she added.