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Hartford increases funding for youth jobs after state underdelivers

Hartford children cool off from the summer heat in the public pool at Colt Park.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
Hartford officials say the city's pool are adequately staffed but they are still looking for qualified lifeguards. Hartford was one of several Connecticut cities and towns that raised hourly wages for lifeguards amid a state-wide lifeguard shortage.

Hartford mayor Luke Bronin announced Tuesday that the city will expand funding for its summer youth employment program from $1 million up to $1.3 million in 2023.

Bronin said this is partly to make up for a lack of funding from the state. Connecticut lawmakers allocated only $5 million additional dollars for its statewide youth employment program, about half of the $10 million increase initially proposed.

Connecticut’s youth employment rate of 40% last summer was higher than the national average of 38.4%, according to data from Rhode Island College. This is a continuation of a steady nationwide increase in youth employment since the 2008 recession, with a dip in 2020.

“There’s more need out there, there’s more kids out there who want jobs,” Bronin said at a press conference Tuesday. “We want to make sure that every kid that wants a job can get a job.”

According to the Connecticut Department of Labor, employed teens are more likely to attend college or find employment after graduating high school.

“We take really seriously our mission to try to prepare young people for work and not just jobs, but careers,” Bronin said.

Hartford’s youth employment program works with several third-party outreach organizations, including the Hartford Center for Latino Progress, where Bronin held his press conference.

Young people of color are less likely to have summer jobs than white teens, which could contribute to existing wage gaps.

“This program is not only an opportunity for a paycheck,” said Christina Baldwin, director of Hartford’s Department of Families, Children, Youth and Recreation. “It also gives our young people the opportunity to gain valuable life skills.”

The program matches individual students up with employment opportunities that fit their skills and interests, and also provides workshops on financial literacy, resume writing, interview preparation, and time management.

Bronin advised young job-seekers that even though the formal application process was over, many of these organizations can still provide assistance.

“There are a lot of employers looking for people,” Bronin said. “And we would be glad, to the best of our ability, to try to help to connect you to those opportunities, even if it's outside this formal Summer Youth Employment Program.”

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