By Andrew Schmertz
College student Jack Fox has the summer job of his dreams working in the press office of the Newark mayor.
“This program has given so much to me and my peers in the three summers I’ve worked here at city hall. I have been given the chance to learn firsthand leadership and spirit of community service,” said Jack Fox, summer jobs recipient.
Fox is one of 2,700 Newark young adults who have a summer job because of an innovative public-private partnership run by the city to get high school and college kids off the streets and into the workforce.
Marsha Armstrong, program manager for the summer youth employment program, has ran the program for two years.
“We work with companies and they say how many students they would like to have and once they do that, we pay the salaries, so this provides an opportunity for young people to work at places they wouldn’t have the opportunity to work with,” said Armstrong.
The Newark program is one of 16 singled out by the White House last year for its summer jobs program and nearly tripled the number of jobs offered since 2014.
Mayor Ras Baraka says he made improving the program a priority of his administration.
“We went to Detroit, we went to places that have summer programs and we looked at what they were doing and compared it to what we are doing. We got some technical support and we began figuring out how to keep the kids and for them to get something out of it than just a paycheck,” he said.
The summer jobs were created just for this program and the salaries funded by the city are paid for by the city and donors. The city raised $1.3 million from a range of corporate sponsors and foundations and Newark contributed about another $1.3 million. Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health is both a donor and an employer.
“We’re looking forward to finding out next neurologist and out next cardiologist in this summer class, I know our babies can do it, but we’re also looking forward to making certain we’re creating accessible ladder for those who will be the next lobbyist, lawyers, the next president, the next CEO,” said Executive Vice President of RWJ Barnabas Health, Michellene Davis.
The mayor says the city received 5,000 applicants, so there are more young adults who want jobs than there are jobs. Those who snagged one say this program is key to turning around Newark’s image.
“It allowed me to have a voice to express what I’ve been through and allow others to see they can obtain the same things and whatever you do with the opportunity to use it for positive things and show everyone that Newark is not the violent crime filled city these are positive things in the city,” said summer job recipient Bakir Adbus-Sabur.
Nationwide, teen summer employment is down. The U.S. labor department says there’s been a 30 percent decrease of teens working over the last four decades. In part because more attend summer school. But advocates of these programs say young adults who have had summer jobs actually do better in school and earn more when they enter the regular work force.