PITTSFIELD — A first job often means so much more than a paycheck. It can mean a connection to a lifelong mentor, the ability to envision a career path, a boost in self-confidence, and an appreciation for the value of education. It's an off-ramp from a life on the streets, and instills the belief that you can be something. The national and state youth employment rate is at its lowest point since the 1940's, and it was 30 percent in the Berkshires last year. We are encouraging Berkshire businesses to reverse that trend this summer. We need everyone's help to connect young people between the ages of 14 and 21 to summer jobs. Here are some ways that Berkshire companies can help:- Hire young people directly and let the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board know. If your company hires young people, let us know so we can qualify to receive resources to hire additional at-risk youth for a subsidized summer program.- Sponsor a Youth: It only costs about $1,500 per youth for a 6-week summer program. Typically, we have resources to hire 60 young people, but we would like that number to exceed 100. Any contribution is greatly appreciated. BCREB will take care of the youth screening and placement.- Host a Youth: If you can't afford to sponsor a young person, but want to provide a meaningful mentor experience, please let BCREB know. We could potentially place one of its subsidized young people at your company.The following workforce champions have already contributed to the Jobs4Youth campaign: First Congregational Church of Williamstown; MountainOne Financial; Capital One; Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, and McDonald's. Information on the Jobs 4 Youth Campaign is on BCREB's website at BCREB.com. Providing just one experience can significantly help improve the lives of our young people.Why should you hire young people? Remember your first job experience? Someone gave you an opportunity to begin your work life and now you have a great opportunity to return the favor by hiring an energetic, motivated young person for your workforce. Besides benefiting the teen, a summer job can be a great experience for businesses and the community. Summer jobs help employers by creating an opportunity to train their future workforce, reduce their recruitment costs, and re-energize their current workforce. Summer jobs also help revitalize the regional economy, reduce crime, and inspire teens to work, thrive and live in Berkshire County.But if you're going to bring teens into the workforce, make sure you are aware what young people can or cannot due at certain ages under the child labor laws. For more information, visit the state Attorney General Office's website at www.mass.gov/ago/youthemployment or call 617 727-3465/. You can also contact the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hours Division at either www.dol.gov/whd or 617 624-6700. TIPS TO LAND A SUMMER JOBWant a summer job? Start now don't wait until a week before school lets out! There is a lot of competition out there, so it is best to start early. Young people ages 14 to 18 can find a list of youth-friendly employers in healthcare, human services, hospitality, retail and food service at BerkshireWorks.org/youth-virtual-job-fair. To view more than 1,700 job postings in the Berkshires, go to www.jobquest.detma.org. Young people who need to be prepared for summer work can find more information by accessing this link, http://YWforward.org.Here are a few more tips to help find employment:- Network and Market Yourself: Friends, neighbors, and other parents are going to be your most valuable means of finding gainful employment during the summer. They may have an inside track to an opportunity you otherwise would not have had access to. Ask your school guidance counselor and teachers for help, and check the bulletin boards at community centers for job listings. Utilize social media outlets to help market yourself, especially if you want to be self-employed in a field like child care, or lawn maintenance. The bottom line: You need to let people know who you are, why they should hire you, and when you are available for work. - Prepare references: Compile a list of names and phone numbers of people not related to you who can vouch for you, either personally or professionally. You may be asked to provide a few references to a potential employer. References are usually provided in the form of a letter of recommendation, and you should get them from previous employers, teachers, coaches or from any place where you may have volunteered.- Dress appropriately for interviews: If you want to be taken seriously, dress appropriately for the job that you are applying for. Be on time — a few minutes early to be safe — and bring any information that you think an employer may want to see, such as reference letters and a resume.- Find specialized job search sites: Websites like BerkshireJobs.com, Monster, Snagajob, and GrooveJob specialize in jobs for teens and high school students. You can search for jobs by location, interest, age range, and employer. These sites also offer advice on writing cover letters and resumes, provide interview tips, and describe how to dress for success.Most importantly, have a positive attitude. Don't take your cellphone into the interview, speak well, and try to be as outgoing and professional as possible. Got it? Now go land that job!NATIONAL TOURISM WEEK National Tourism Week took place earlier this month, but it's worth taking note of because tourism is a major economic driver in the Berkshires. Did you know that the Berkshire leisure and hospitality industry employs 8,938 people, and that an additional 7,080 are employed in the accommodation and food services sector? Combined, these numbers make up the Berkshire's fourth largest industry sector with 11.7 percent of the county's total workforce.Established in 1983, National Tourism Week serves to champion the power of the tourism industry across the nation. Industry professionals work to promote the impact and contributions that travel and tourism organizations make to the economy. One out of every nine jobs depends on travel and tourism, and 15.3 million American jobs are supported by this sector.BCREB and 1Berkshire encourage you to share your "Faces of Travel" story on social media. Go to USTravel.org/toolkit to access the communication toolkit that helps get the word out to the community about the importance of the travel and tourism sector.Heather Boulger is the executive director of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board in Pittsfield.
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