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Summer jobs program kicks off

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE Providing 1,000 jobs for area youth this summer in Holyoke, Chicopee and Springfield is the goal of the Regional Employment Board's summer job program this year.

Bill Ward, the executive director of the Regional Employment Board (REB) said that even with this year's larger job goal, the ratio of youths to jobs is two to one. Last year's goal was 900 youths placed in jobs.

What makes the campaign more difficult this year, Ward said, is that employment data indicates that there are fewer jobs available this summer.

The program received an official kick-off last week at Universal Plastics in Holyoke with Mayor Michael Sullivan calling the annual employment effort as "a wonderful program."

Ward explained the focus was to match lower-income, inner city youth with jobs that are either in the private sector or in non-profit agencies. The salaries for these jobs are paid for by the individual business or through a fund of $700,000 state monies and about $200,000 federal dollars, he explained.

This year Attorney General Martha Coakley's office donated $10,000 to the program, which Jan Healy of the Western Massachusetts AG office called "an incredible collaborative effort."

Ward said the REB is reaching out more to businesses for support either through a donation that could fund a job in a non-profit or by making summer jobs available.

Youths participating in the program go through a 10-hour preparation class so they know what is expected in an interview, how to prepare a resume and other job-seeking skills, Ward said. Looking at available jobs, the REB then matches a youth with a job based on the skills involved.

Many inner city or low-income youth don't have the connections many people had in the past in order to find a job, Ward said. He recalled how he received his first job and that was through a relative of a neighbor who was looking for help. Those kind of connections helped many people to obtain a chance at a job and those don't always exist for many young people today.

For more information on the program, log onto or call 787-1547.