Sources: KentuckianaWorks/U.S. Census Bureau

Thanks to programs such as SummerWorks, Louisville’s youth employment rate is outpacing the national average at an ever greater clip, according to the local workforce development board.

Michael Gritton

About five years ago, the share of Louisville teens who had a job hovered just above 30 percent, about 4 percentage points higher than the national average. However, the gap increased in subsequent years and now stands at about 10 percentage points, said Michael Gritton, executive director of KentuckianaWorks.

SummerWorks places local youths, aged 16 to 21, in jobs with participating local employers. Since its inception in 2011, the program has provided jobs for nearly 17,000 Louisville youths, according to the city. SummerWorks coordinates with Jefferson County Public Schools to pair students with jobs that match their scholastic interests and that reinforce the skills that they are learning in school. The jobs usually last about seven weeks.

Gritton also said that SummerWorks high school students are 12 percentage points more likely than nonparticipants to be employed a year later, and 21 percentage points more likely to enroll in postsecondary education within a year.

And, he said, SummerWorks participants who are out of school are 42 percent more likely than nonparticipants to be employed a year later.

Source: KentuckianaWorks

The program is working, Gritton said, and Louisville is seeing the benefits as more young people have jobs than the national average. The program’s impact is expanding, he said, because every year more employers are providing jobs.

In the program’s first year, 2011, about 30 employers placed 200 youths into jobs. This year, more than 160 employers participated, providing jobs to more than 5,200 youngsters. Both figures were records.

“The program continues to expand and evolve each year because our local businesses recognize that there is no substitute for on-the-job training,” the city has said.

Participants include Hilliard Lyons, the University of Louisville, Humana, GE Appliances, Ford, Kindred Healthcare, Kroger and the Louisville Zoo. Greater Louisville Inc., the local chamber of commerce, this year recruited 30 new providers that offered 225 summer jobs.

Participating students have learned about anything from troubleshooting IT challenges at Thorntons to observing brain surgery at Norton Healthcare.

Employer and student sign-up for next summer has begun.

The program, which was recognized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2014 as one of the nation’s best summer jobs programs for young people, is funded by public and private dollars, including $600,000 from Louisville Metro and $100,000 each from the James Graham Brown Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation and the family of businessman Paul Diaz.

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Boris Ladwig
Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.