Sign of the times: 4,000 Minneapolis youth seek 1,300 summer jobs

Back in December, we wondered how many kids would apply for a popular Minneapolis youth summer jobs program, thinking it might be a barometer of how young people were faring in the recession.

Now we have our answer — a record 4,000-plus applications for STEP-UP.

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Notification letters are going out this week. Program leaders still hope to have a total of 1,350 jobs recruited and in place. But right now they’re 300 jobs short and are busy contacting employers.

(If you’re a business interested in the program, here’s some information.)

These are paid summer internships. Youth ages 14 to 21 are matched with jobs in private businesses, government, non-profits and education.

The jobs pay at least $7.25 an hour, so they are a big deal in a recession that’s hit young people particularly hard. Last summer, STEP-UP received 3,200 applications for 1,300 jobs.

This year’s roughly 4,050 applicants are “definitely a record since STEP-UP was branded as such in 2004,” said director Tammy Dickinson.

“I think it shows how much teens have been impacted by the job market, in many cases having to work much harder to find work since in some cases adults that are unemployed are shifting into jobs that teens would typically fill,” Dickinson said.

No doubt.

In its teen summer jobs outlook report last spring, the state employment and economic development office saw an entry level labor market getting more crowded as “experienced workers are hit by layoffs, older workers delay retirement and brand-new college graduates seek employment outside their fields of study.”

With so many breadwinners unemployed, it would be easy to dismiss the struggles of teens and young adults who are trying to find work. Minnesota’s newest overall jobless numbers will be out this morning and no one’s expecting a turnaround. (UPDATE: jobless rate came in at 7.3% for January, down slightly from 7.4% in December.)

But as we noted in a prior post, that summer cash isn’t just “fun money” any more. In many households it’s a vital piece of household income.

Dickinson says many of the employers that were on board last year are working with STEP-UP this year because of their commitment to the program and the benefits the interns bring to their companies.

However, “we are still stretching in the tighter economy to get enough employers to pledge jobs for 2010.”

  • Lakota Eldridge

    i would love to help