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Downturn makes teens’ job hunt a tough task

Citizen Staff Writer



Federal stimulus money will fund an estimated 2,000 local youth jobs during what experts say is the worst summer in many years to be seeking employment.

Pima County will receive between $1.5 million and $2 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to pay for the jobs, said Dana Katbah, program manager with the county’s Summer Youth Program.

Job applications must be in by Friday at 5 p.m., she said. Applicants must also call 798-0533 to schedule an assessment to find jobs that best suit them, she said.

Teens know what’s in store for them when it comes to finding a job this summer.

“The economy is pretty bad,” Robert Garcia, 15, said. “Right now I am looking for a job – whatever is good.”

The Pima County program includes jobs in the public sector, such as in libraries and the Department of Transportation, Katbah said.

It will also cover salaries for youth working in the private sector at participating local businesses, she said.

“All the money is going for youth salaries, and we figure we can do about 2,000 jobs,” she said.

Jobs will run four to seven weeks for 30 to 40 hours per week at $7.25 per hour, she said.

More than 3,000 have already applied, she said.

“There are applicants who won’t get selected, but we are doing the best with what we have,” she said. “We can make a little dent in it.”

The federal youth job funding has been a godsend, she said.

“If we did not have the stimulus package, we would have had only 250 to 500 (youth) jobs,” she said. “It really saved us.”

Even with the stimulus package jobs, teens face a tough row to hoe this summer.

“I would think this is the toughest labor market for summer jobs we have seen for a very long time,” said Marshall J. Vest, director of the Economic and Business Research Center at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management.

“The unemployment rate continues to march upward, and business leaders indicate they are very cautious with regard to hiring people,” Vest said.

Katbah said it will be more difficult for teens to find a job this year than last.

“This is probably the worst year for youth jobs since I’ve been involved in work force development, but that doesn’t mean it is hopeless,” she said.

In Tucson, of 1,300 applicants and 600 people who were interviewed, 200 will secure summer jobs with the city Parks & Recreation Department, said Margaret Loquasto-Jaquay, youth program supervisor.

The jobs, paying from $7.81 to $8.71 per hour, include working at city KIDCO recreation, therapeutic recreation and sports programs, Loquasto-Jaquay said.

The city youth jobs program had far more applicants than last year, she said.

Teens face an additional challenge this summer as adults with work experience apply for jobs normally filled by youngsters, she said.

“With the economy, people are trying to find anything they can to hold them over until they find what they consider a real job,” Loquasto-Jaquay said.

Eegee’s is seeing some adults trying for entry-level openings that pay $8.20 per hour, said Rick Maes, training and development supervisor.

In addition, a couple of years ago, Eegee’s moved away from hiring 50 to 100 teen summer workers and toward hiring employees who would work year-round, Maes said.

“The opportunities are there, but not so much if they just want a summer job,” he said.

The firm sees a 20 to 25 percent increase in head count when business spikes in June and July as the thermometer tops 100 degrees, Maes said.

The tough job market also means people are more likely to hang onto their jobs, Maes said.

Area teens at the John Valenzuela Youth Center, 1550 S. Sixth Ave. are receiving assistance finding summer jobs.

Center staffers assist youngsters with résumés, job searches and other things that can help them find work, center director Gloria Hamelitz said.

Garcia, Alejandro Gallego, 14, and Juan Quevedo, 15, gathered there Thursday afternoon to sharpen their job-hunting skills.

“It’s really difficult,” Gallego said. “A lot of people are looking for jobs.”

Quevedo said his age prevents him from getting a job in fast food or at an auto supply store.

He is hopeful, but realistic, about his chances.

“I’m not really sure,” he said. “It is difficult. There are a lot of teenagers who want a job. But because of the economy I wonder if I get to have a summer job.”

Despite the challenges, teens can still find summer jobs, said Sean Lopez, Pledge-A-Job coordinator for the Pima County Community Services Department.

“If you have a young person in high school who is motivated and understands they need to sell themselves properly, they can still get a job,” Lopez said.

‘If you have a young person in high school who is motivated and understands they need to sell themselves properly, they can still get a job.’

Sean Lopez,

Pledge-A-Job coordinator for the Pima County Community Services Department


Here are some tips for teens seeking employment:

• Have a positive attitude and be self-confident

• Wear appropriate clothing that is clean, with no holes

• Have neat, clean hair.

• Hide tattoos and have no visible facial piercings when meeting with potential employers

• Get to know the company before you go

• Use eye contact and a firm handshake

• Relax even in a stressful situation

Source: Sean Lopez, Pima County Pledge-A-Job coordinator

Pima County Summer Youth Job Program

• Application deadline is 5 p.m. Friday.

• Online applications can be found at https://secure.pima.gov/summeryouth.

• Applicants must also call 798-0533 to schedule an assessment

• Employers interested in participating may contact dana.katbah@pima.gov

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