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John D. DesPrez III and P. Steven Ainsley

Summer jobs, lifelong dreams

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By John D. DesPrez III and P. Steven Ainsley
June 29, 2008

FOR THOUSANDS of young people in Boston the odds of getting a summer job are very discouraging. Not for lack of desire or talent. What's missing is the opportunity. There are simply too few jobs available.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino has called for area businesses and other organizations to come forward with 10,000 jobs for the summer at a time when Boston's population of young people has spiked, entry-level opportunities have become scarce, and the risk of escalating youth violence is of concern.

Studies show that young people with jobs have lower high-school dropout rates, higher rates of pursuing post-secondary education, and a lower incidence of teenage pregnancy.

Jobs improve lives and communities. Both of us have seen firsthand how a summer job can transform a young person's life through programs we have sponsored and programs developed by other companies and nonprofit organizations. We have seen determination to succeed, even against substantial obstacles and little support. We've heard the optimism in the voices of teenagers beginning to plan for college instead of wondering whether it's even an option.

This experience convinced us to join together and spearhead a new program that will provide 500 jobs for city teens. The Boston Summer Scholars will work in both our organizations, as well as community service agencies throughout the city.

Additionally, each Friday our 500 Scholars will gather at Boston University for a series of interactive workshops to learn important life skills from industry experts in a variety of fields from financial literacy to business writing.

We are not alone. Other companies, such as Bank of America and State Street Corp., have developed strong programs to ensure teens are gainfully employed each summer. All have the same goal - providing Boston's future generation with the job skills, life skills, and confidence needed to succeed in today's workplace.

But we, in the business community, must and can do better. More than 9,000 jobs are already pledged, but hundreds more are needed to reach the mayor's goal of employing 10,000 teens this summer.

Supplying a skilled labor force for the city and the region is critical. We seldom hear about the career aspirations of thousands of bright young people draining away.

If the city's next generation feels empowered by employment success, eventually we will see more households with increased buying potential and financial stability. In the longer term we would hope to see less pressure on government to spend on health, housing, and other social programs, which in turn lowers pressure for raising taxes on households and businesses. The strength of our community starts with jobs.

As business people we can't solve the whole problem, but we can help move things in the right direction. We ask companies large and small to join us and help build Boston's future by providing needed jobs this summer. The mayor's summer jobs hotline (617-635-HELP) can connect a company or organization with a well-deserving Boston student who needs to be placed. We encourage you to contact them and be a part of Boston's 10,000 jobs solution.

John D. DesPrez III is president and CEO of John Hancock Financial Services Inc. P. Steven Ainsley is publisher of The Boston Globe.

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