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Longtime jobs program seeing more use

Slim job prospects means high interest in Bethlehem’s Y.E.S. service

— Obtaining a summer job is a teenage rite of passage, but working outside of school is increasingly becoming a necessity as children must earn their own spending money or even contribute to the family themselves.

Unfortunately for enterprising teens, since the start of the recession in 2008 entry-level jobs are hard to come by, but a program through the Town of Bethlehem is working to help.

“A lot of people out there are taking jobs below their skill level so it’s causing problems for the younger workers,” said Rachel Promutico, the town’s Youth Employment Services director. “Our program partners those looking for work to be done with those who want to do it.”

According to Parks and Recreation Department Administrator Nan Lanahan, whose office oversees Y.E.S., the program began in the 1970s during another recession when it was hard for local teenagers to find jobs over the summer break. The thought was find job opportunities that were age appropriate by getting residents to list the types or work that needed doing. Teens who joined the program would then be matched with employers.

“It’s was probably one of the only ways for kids to get jobs at that time,” said Lanahan.

Over the years, the town added summer park jobs and local business owners were allowed to add their jobs to the list as well.

The program works in a similar way today, with residents between the ages of 14 and 21 filling out a form to enter the program. The jobs are then posted on a forum and interested participants can make references to the jobs they like.

Promutico said participation has been on the rise in the last five years.

She said in 2008, 141 youths participated in the program in order to find jobs. By the next year, 375 people were using the program and this year the number is up to nearly 700 youths. Part of the uptick in participation may be word of mouth, but the majority is likely out of necessity.

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