The City of Tacoma’s efforts to match high schoolers with summer jobs to learn job skills and workplace etiquette recently received a boost courtesy of a $20,000 grant from State Farm Insurance in support of this year’s Summer Jobs 253 program.
“State Farm has always been a good community partner and we, along with our other partners at WorkForce Central, Tacoma Public Schools, Tacoma Community College, The REACH Center and Tacoma Community House, thank them for their support of Summer Jobs 253,” said Mayor Victoria Woodards. “This grant funding will help with our ongoing efforts to develop Tacoma’s workforce and, through our continued refinement of this important program, provide Tacoma’s youth with access to quality opportunities.”
The five-year-old program connects Tacoma high school juniors and seniors with area employers during the summer that allows the students to receive high school credits, gain work experience and have some spending money along the way. Piloted in 2013 with just 50 students, Summer Jobs 253 has served a total of 753 students thanks to partnerships with more than 75 employers that participate in the program year each year.
Through the program, each student is paid $12 an hour for up to 120 hours of work during the summer, while earning high school credits, gaining professional skills, increasing financial literacy, and participating in a variety of unique training opportunities.
Students are selected for the program after they filled out a resume and wrote essays on what knowledge they hope to gain from the program and are ranked based on their financial need and school performance.
“It is a competitive process, but a lot of it is needs based” program manager Christopher Wright said, noting that only about half of the 150 students who applied this year will be placed in a summer job. He wishes the program could place more since many of the students apply for the program to gain job skills so they can help feed their families.
Two factors don’t allow for more placements, however. The program, of course, has limited dollars to fund placements. Each student costs about $2,000 in wages and administrative costs for caseworkers to mentor them through the program. The program also needs more businesses willing to host summer workers.
Routinely students work the retail floors at Goodwill Industries, detail cars at Titus Will dealerships, do clerical work at banks and offices such as those at State Farm as well as input and help collate data at the Tacoma police and fire stations.
“State Farm is proud to support Summer Jobs 253, so students can participate in an employment program that helps them develop important skills and good work habits. Investing in today’s youth is an investment in their future and in the future of our community,” said State Farm spokesperson Ty Cordova.
“Employers really appreciate the opportunity to showcase their line of work,” Wright said.
Many businesses end up employing the students, either part time or full time, once the summer program ends.
“There is definitely still room for businesses to sign up,” city spokeswoman Maria Lee said.
Businesses interested in participating can still apply to help students gain professional skills and increase their financial literacy this year. More information on how to participate can be found at summerjobs253.com.