GR Community Foundation trying to put youth to work

July 5, 2011
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The Grand Rapids Community Foundation will help the area’s youth gain valuable work experience this summer by redistributing $400,000 in grant funds it received from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The money will go to local nonprofit service organizations, which, in turn, will provide job training and employment programs for up to 250 young people between the ages of 14 and 24.

“With high unemployment rates, out-of-work adults are filling many summer jobs that were traditionally open to young people,” said Marcia Rapp, vice president of programs at GRCF, in a statement. “But summer jobs provide more than just extra spending money: They increase job readiness and employability for young people in the future.”

The average unemployment rate in 2010 for Michigan’s young people was higher, and in some cases much higher, than the state’s average jobless figure. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those ages 16 to 19 averaged an unemployment rate of 28.3 percent last year, while those from 20 to 24 had an average rate of 13.7 percent. The state’s overall jobless number averaged 12.2 percent for 2010.

The average unemployment figures were higher last year for men between the ages of 16 to 24 than for women. Males from 16 to 19 years old had a 29.8 percent rate, while females in that age group had a lower rate of 26.5 percent. Men from 20 to 24 years old recorded an unemployment rate of 16.3 percent, while women in that age group averaged 11.2 percent last year. The Grand Rapids-Wyoming MSA posted an overall annual average unemployment figure of 10.5 percent for 2010.

Before Kevin Stotts left the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce as its vice president of community programs a few weeks ago to become president of Talent 2025, he said a constant challenge for area employers has been trying to find qualified applicants to fill job vacancies. “This is why summer youth employment is so important,” said Rapp.

“We want young people in Grand Rapids to continue to live and work in our community. Helping our youth secure meaningful summer jobs provides valuable skills and experience that will make them a desirable candidate for a job in the future,” she said.

To that end, GRCF awarded grants ranging from $5,000 to $60,000 to Bethany Christian Services, the city of Grand Rapids, Jubilee Jobs, New City Neighbors, Other Way Ministries, Project COOL, Steepletown Neighborhood Services, Wedgwood Christian Services, Worldwide Christian Schools’ Comprenew, and the Hispanic Center of West Michigan.

“These dollars will help shorten our waiting list and will strengthen the employability and financial literacy components of our program,” said Stacy Stout, Hispanic Center education director. “We want more than summer success. By connecting jobs to careers to college, we set young people up for lifelong careers and academic success.”

In addition to the Kellogg Foundation funds, Project COOL received an additional $75,000 grant from GRCF. Founded in 2004 by Minnie Farris, Project COOL places metro-area youth in positions with local employers for the summer.

Forbes magazine recently named Grand Rapids as the nation’s best city to find employment for the summer.

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