NORTH ADAMS — The ad might read "local employers wanted."
A Northern Berkshire Jobs4Youth initiative kicked off its North Adams Youth Works employer search during a Thursday press conference at City Hall.
This year's goal targets securing 15 employers willing to add employees aged 14-21 to the work roster for six weeks, said Heather Williams, the youth director for the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board.
The board oversees the job program in partnership with the city, the city's public schools, and the Pittsfield-based Berkshire Community Action Council, the Reconnect Center and the Berkshire Works Career Center.
Last year, eight young people found employment through the endeavor. The program is limited to city youth but expansion to surrounding communities may occur in the future, Williams said.
"We hope that employers will come on board," Williams said. "This campaign is so important and our lifeline for the North Adams program really depends on the private sector."
About 35 communities statewide receive state funding for youth job programs but the city is not eligible for the money, Williams said.
State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi said she asks for funds targeting youth jobs every year.
"There isn't enough state money coming our way," she said. "I know that we have smart kids here, kids that are eager, kids that deserve jobs. We hope that good corporate sponsors step up, we hope that employers step up. We need to give these kids the opportunity they deserve."
A $1,500 donation sponsors six weeks employment for one person, she said. Employers may also hire youth directly.
Support services are provided to employers and the young workers, Williams said. Program partners visit work sites on a regular basis and employment skills such as being on time are tracked. Employees are able to see their progress as they move through the program.
Those securing jobs must complete a weeklong work readiness seminar held at a city location. The program emphasizes things such as punctuality, proper work attire, and other employment considerations, said Michele Boyer-Vivori, a Drury High School career specialist.
"We work together to build a work ethic," she said. "The work ethic isn't automatic. Last year the readiness was phenomenal. The kids stepped right up to the plate."
Jobs generate responsibility and pride and the relationships with employers and co-workers can build self-esteem, said city Mayor Richard Alcombright.
"The mentoring is important, the support of the adults is important," he said. "The validation that happens when someone has done a good job and is recognized for it, and the independence that comes from earning a paycheck, all those things are positives."
High school students may apply for the program through the city's public schools. Those who are not in school may apply through BCAC. Students will need a reference from a teacher, sports coach or guidance counselor. An interview is also part of the selection process.
"We need sponsors," Alcombright said "Sponsors, sponsors, sponsors. The more sponsors we have, the more kids we can help. "
The Mountain One Financial Services donated $3,000 to this year's program and Berkshire Bank donated $5.000.
There are many young people who want jobs, said Bryan House, deputy director of Berkshire Community Action Council. Speaking after the press conference, House said he hopes that employers will hire young people from all over the region, even if they are not eligible for the North Adams program.
"I will say that I think we'd be willing to speak with employers, to help them with some ways to work with the youth," he said.
Where to call ...
To learn more about the program, contact Heather Williams at 413-442-7177, ext. 151.