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This article is made possible by a partnership with the Marion County Commission on Youth. Indy with Kids is proud to support the work of MCCOY and help communicate information that is important for the youth of our community.

Written by Jacie Farris

As kids grow into teens and young adults, parents and leaders may wonder what they can do to prepare their young loved ones for the responsibilities of adulthood. One of the most important life skills they can teach is the ability to find and keep a job.

“Mayor Hogsett is interested in helping young people start out on a path to economic success: the ABCs, A job, a Better job, a Career start with a summer job in high school,” said Beth White, executive director of the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee. She continued, “ProjectIndy is the “A” in the ABC continuum – it is a way to start on a path to economic success. Once you find a job and have some experience, you are in a much better position to find a better job and think about what your career might look like. Everyone needs a place to start.”

ProjectIndy.net is an online portal created by the Mayor’s office, the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, EmployIndy and other community partners that allows youth to engage with local employers who are willing to hire young individuals.

Beth Bowling, manager of youth initiatives for EmployIndy, supports ProjectIndy and a number of other efforts, including Jobs for America’s Graduates, Youth Employment Services, YouthBuild Indy, YouthWorks Indy and Opportunity Youth Providers. These programs help youth acquire the skills and education they need to continue down productive career paths.

“As unemployment, poverty and crime rates among youth remain higher than other populations, particularly in Indianapolis, it is critical that we engage youth in employment opportunities,” said Bowling. “Not only do the youth themselves benefit from employment, but communities are strengthened when young people are contributing as productive members of society.”

White agreed, saying it is “important for young people to have positive, productive ways to spend time, so [employment] can be an important crime prevention tool. As Mayor Hogsett likes to say, ‘when young people have nothing to do, they rarely do nothing.’”

The decision to seek out employment can be tricky for a number of reasons. In addition to pay and work place culture, time commitment should also be considered before starting a job.

“Historically, research has shown that any young person who works more than 20 hours per week while in school will show a negative impact in their academics,” said Bowling. “Conversely to the previous statistic I shared, there has been research that indicates youth who work 20 hours per week or less show improvement in their academics. In addition to improving their academics, individuals that begin employment as a youth are able to narrow down their career interests faster, start networking earlier and develop a strong work ethic younger. All of these benefits can lead to long-term career success for a young person.”

“The key is staying organized and knowing your limits,” said White. “A job can be a great way to focus your schedule and force you to prioritize your time.  For instance, if you are working at a job all weekend, you probably won’t wait until Sunday night to start that project you’ve had on the plate for two weeks. Like anything, it’s a learning process, but starting early gives you the tools to succeed later on.”

Parents and mentors should discuss these issues with their youth during the course of the job search, but they should also allow the youth to take initiative of the process.

“To parents of youth seeking employment, take time to help build up your jobseeker by reminding them of all their great qualities, so they feel confident and positive when approaching employers,” said Bowling. She added, “As a parent myself, I feel it is my job to teach my children to be independent and self-sufficient. By completing tasks that your children should own, you are doing them a disservice.”

Youth searching for employment should take advantage of community programs and resources, like ProjectIndy.net, and take the time to develop their own work skills.

Bowling said, “To any young person looking for a job, be confident and positive! Employers’ top complaint of youth applicants is a lack of eye contact. A handshake and eye contact can go a long way in making a good impression.”

The Marion County Commission on Youth, Inc. is a proud partner of ProjectIndy. MCCOY, EmployIndy and ProjectIndy are hosting a series of free workforce-readiness trainings for youth. To find dates and locations, visit MCCOY’s Community Trainings calendar.