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Project Indy aims to offer summer employment to 2,000 teens

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Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsett and other community partners recently gathered to kick off Project Indy, the mayor’s annual summer jobs program designed to teach teens valuable skills they will need in the workforce. 

Hogsett introduced Project Indy in May of 2016 and says this year’s program will be both an expansion and an improvement over the previous year. Hogsett announced projectindy.net and an accompanying mobile app to assist teens as they search for employment. Rather than going from one employer to the next and filling out separate applications, teens will be able to fill out a brief online application that matches them with employers who are committed to hiring young people. The website and app also match teens with places of employment near their homes so that one of the biggest barriers to summer employment, finding transportation, is reduced.

“We cannot compartmentalize time by saying that the present is ours and the future belongs to our children. Now is their moment as much as it is our moment,” Hogsett said. “We owe it to them to invest in their future — today, right now. We owe it to them to reduce barriers and increase accessibility to many different opportunities.”

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, the number of teens working summer jobs has dwindled since the early 1990s, and during the summer of 2014, less than a third of teens had a summer job. In addition, white teens were much more likely to find summer employment than teens of other races and ethnicities. While 34 percent of white teens between the ages of 16 and 19 worked a summer job, only 19.3 percent of Black teens did. 

Hogsett aims to double the number of young people Project Indy matches with employers this year by helping 2,000 teens find summer jobs. He has partnered with many local organizations to recruit employees and assist youth, including The Marion County Commission On Youth, EmployIndy and the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee. 

Angie Carr Klitzsch, president of EmployIndy, says her organization has been working hard to recruit new employers to the program. 

“Many of the jobs we found for young people last year were with nonprofit organizations and government agencies.  What we are seeing for the summer of 2017 is the private sector stepping up to offer employment opportunities and career pathways,” she said. “Besides just increasing the number, we are also looking at the quality of the jobs and we will continue to improve on that every year.”

Employers who have partnered with Project Indy include FedEx and Indy Parks, among many others. In addition to linking teens with summer jobs, Project Indy also plans to offer employability skills workshops to teens.

“We will offer these workshops in March or April, and we want to make them as open as we possibly can to young people. Even if they are 14 and not ready to get a job quite yet, if they want to improve personal skills it’s open to them as well,” said John Brandon, president of the Marion County Commission On Youth.

Brandon says the benefits associated with teens gaining work experience at a young age span beyond one particular summer. 

“There is research that shows that young people who have experience working part time while in school develop skills like time management and prioritizing and it actually improves their academic performance. I think back to my first job and how good it made me feel. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and helps you build a resume, and you may learn that, long term, you don’t want to be flipping hamburgers,” said Brandon.   

Employ Indy’s youth director Erika Cheney agrees.

“A lot of times you can’t get a job because you have no experience but can’t get experience because no one will give you a job. I firmly believe that when you have an opportunity to work, you are building a resume and skills that will help you once you get into a more serious job,” said Cheney.

Many of Project Indy’s partners have separate programs that may be of interest to students, such as Teenworks and YouthBuild Indy. 

Teenworks is a six-week paid summer employment and college readiness program for students ages 15-18. Teenworks provides transportation and daily meals to students. The program currently has 480 positions available to students in Marion and Delaware counties. Applications are available online at teenworks.org. 

YouthBuild Indy, created by Employ Indy, is an education and work-readiness program targeted toward teens and young adults who are not employed or involved in high school or college-level education. Participants have the opportunity to earn a High School Equivalency Diploma and begin a path to a well-paying career. 

Mariah Sutton, a participant of YouthBuild Indy, wants to encourage other teens to make the first move on finding a job.   

“I saw a paper about the program at an apartment. I wasn’t so sure at first. I would say to other young people to give it a try. Just get up and see how it goes. Once you start you are going to want to do it,” said Sutton. 


For more information on Project Indy or to apply for jobs visit projectindy.net.


Youth resources

Teens who want more information on summer employment and other opportunities can attend Congressman Andre Carson’s Youth Opportunity Fair at the Central Library. The event will feature local service providers, businesses and groups that offer summer programs, internships, camps, volunteer opportunities and jobs. Organizations that will be in attendance include Starbucks, UPS and LGC Hospitality Staffing. This free event will take place on Monday, March 6, from 12–7 p.m. Students should dress in business professional attire and bring multiple copies of their resume.


For more information, visit carson.house.gov/about/events.

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