Getting teens back to work

The number of employed teens has been declining, but Sullivan County has plans to change that

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 11/9/21

MONTICELLO, NY — The numbers are sobering. According to a chart from the St. Louis Fed, the rate of teen labor force participation has been down since about the turn of the millennium.

But …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Getting teens back to work

The number of employed teens has been declining, but Sullivan County has plans to change that

Posted

MONTICELLO, NY — The numbers are sobering. According to a chart from the St. Louis Fed, the rate of teen labor force participation has been down since about the turn of the millennium.

But work has significant benefits for young people. Drexel University’s Center for Labor Markets and Policy listed a number of them, from learning work and life skills to keeping kids away from the lure of risky behavior.

Sullivan County’s Center for Workforce Development (CWD) has seen the decline, and is creating a plan to reverse it, at least in the county.

“We want to work more closely with the schools,” said Loreen Gebelein, director of the CWD. “Grades 10, 11 and 12. We’re not reaching those kids.”

At the same time, Laura Quigley, commissioner of community resources, and Gebelein realize that schools have been under tremendous pressure in the last 18 months. So they’re taking this slowly.

What they have in mind are programs that teach financial management and “what a job is, versus a career. What it’s like to be part of a community,” Gebelein said.

“How to open a bank account,” Quigley said. “The digital literacy you need for work.”

It would also include offering trades as an alternative to college. Certainly Sullivan BOCES offers some trades, like construction and welding, but the kids are still part of the school system.

The CWD wants to reach out to everyone else.

“If you’re struggling through school or have left school, but you’re good with your hands, there’s nowhere to go for your training,” said Quigley.

That also applies to young people who have family responsibilities—children of their own or family members who are ill. Being in class all day can create insurmountable obstacles, especially when the agencies, doctors, and so on they might have to deal with keep similar hours.

So the CWD is working closely with Johnson College of Technology in Scranton, PA, creating a way to bring more trades—automotive work, for instance—to kids in Sullivan. Once that’s up and running, it could act, with modifications, as a pilot for joint projects with schools.

“It could be short-term training, occupation-driven,” Gebelein said.

There could be internships, giving kids work experience. Which would help Sullivan’s small businesses, which are struggling with the worker shortage, Quigley said. “We’d work with one school to start with, create an internship model, hold classes… make sure it’s replicable and robust.”

And once that’s in place, they can expand to more schools.

There is one hurdle with internships: the county’s businesses are primarily small. About 98 percent have 15 employees or fewer. National internship programs are targeted toward corporations.

Those small businesses have their own needs and those have to be addressed too.

“This is the business side of the equation,” Gebelein said. “If you can’t find workers, you’re talking about long-time family-owned businesses not making it too.”

Businesses too are struggling, and not just with their reduced workforces. There are supply chain issues. “So you have businesses just trying to get products out,” Quigley said.

The CWD is working on both sides of the problem.

What it comes down to, Gebelein said, is that “we need our presence out there in the community. Once we have that, in a few years, we can turn this around.”

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here