I’ve been working since I was in high school, so I have had a lot of summer jobs. One summer, I got a job as a paralegal at a law firm in Chicago. I was beginning law school in the fall, and wanted to know what it was like being a lawyer. A young lawyer named Michelle Robinson invited me into her office, and showed me what she was working on and answered a few questions. Our chat was short, maybe five or ten minutes long. Later that summer, I met her fiancé Barack Obama, and to make a long story short, the rest is history.
Now, not every summer job will lead to a job at the White House, but I can tell you that every job is a priceless opportunity and a chance to have a great adventure. You learn to work hard, to work well with others, and to manage all sorts of situations. That summer, I didn’t just meet a future First Lady and President, I also was introduced to the ins and outs of being a lawyer, something that has served me well during my law school and legal career to my job at the White House today. Obviously, I will never forget that summer job.
That’s why Summer Jobs+ is so important. Summer Jobs+ is a joint initiative that challenges business leaders and communities to join in providing summer jobs for America’s youth. This week at the White House, we welcomed youth from around the District of Columbia to participate in a Summer Jobs + event. Staff from the White House led small groups on resume- writing, interviewing, and other skills for job searching.
We know that every young person has unique skills, special talents, and big dreams. We also know that they can’t do it alone: they need opportunities to build those skills, exercise those talents, and develop those dreams.
Unfortunately, as the nation continues to recover from the deepest recession since the Great Depression, many American youth are struggling to get these important opportunities.
According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (Current Population Survey): 48.8 percent of youth seeking employment between the ages of 16-24 were employed last July, the month when youth employment usually peaks. This is significantly lower than the 59.2 percent of youth who were employed five years ago from then and 63.3 percent of youth who were employed 10 years ago.
Minority youth had an especially difficult time finding employment last summer. Only 34.6 percent of African American youth and 42.9 percent of Hispanic youth had a job last July.
That’s why, in January of this year, President Obama launched the Summer Jobs+ initiative, launching a call-to-action for business and government to work together to provide opportunities for youth to build new skills and get job experience over the summer.
Partners include major corporations, nonprofits, and local governments. The initiative also represents a wide range of high-growth, high-demand sectors like manufacturing, transportation, IT and health care.
We’ve also launched the Summer Jobs+ Bank, a new online search tool to help connect young people to jobs, internships and other employment opportunities this summer and year round. The Summer Jobs+ Bank includes thousands of job postings in every state. Youth can apply to jobs ranging from fashion marketing at a start-up to electrical engineering at a big company to human resources at a nonprofit to delivering customer service at a store and so much more.
President Obama has said that we need to do everything we can to make sure youth have the opportunity to earn the skills and a work ethic that come with a job. What is important to the future of our youth is important for the future of our country.
My summer job changed my life. And I hope the Summer Jobs+ Initiative will change the lives of many more.
Michael Strautmanis is a Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement to the Senior Advisor.
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