Economy & Business
6:00 am
Thu July 3, 2014

Over 2,000 Young People Expected To Take Part In Milwaukee's Summer Jobs Program

Three teens are working at the Port of Milwaukee this summer as part of the Earn and Learn program
Credit LaToya Dennis

In Milwaukee, a program is underway employ some young people during summer and perhaps, launch a career.

It’s called Earn and Learn.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the jobless rate in some places for people ages 16 to 24, is double the national rate.

It’s probably safe to assume most of remember our first summer job. For me, I was 14 and excited that the hottest pizza and ice cream hangout in town hired me. Laticia Escovar’s first job tops that.

“Well my position is doing engineering,” Escovar says.

The 17-year-old will be a senior at Hamilton High School. This is her second week of work at the Port, and she says she’s already learned a lot.

“We’ve been doing computer programming and (learning) how to construct buildings and stuff, which is pretty awesome because I’ve never done it before,” Escovar says.

Under the Earn and Learn program, students work four hours a day, five days a week. They earn the minimum wage--$7.25 an hour. Escovar says she already has plans for her first paycheck.

“You know I’m looking forward to it and saving it for college,” Escovar says.

Saving money for college is also what 16-year-old Patrice Greer says she plans to do. “To get like books and stuff for becoming a lawyer, I know I’m going to have a lot of books I’m going to need,” Greer says.

Greer is a senior at Milwaukee High School of the Arts. This summer, at the Port of Milwaukee, she’s working in accounting and finance.

“I do like invoices and I balance out I guess you could say like checkbooks and checks and stuff like that,” Greer says.

Greer admits the learning curve has been steep but she’s thankful for the opportunity. Local businesses have made it possible. They’ve donated $650,000 so far to Earn and Learn, and some have hired applicants, according to Mayor Tom Barrett.

“We have a private sector component with partners like Summerfest who’s hiring a lot of kids this summer. And other private employers who contribute to a fund that we’ve created over at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation that allows us to hire kids to work for not-for-profit agencies, because a lot of them are located in the neighborhoods where these kids live,” Barrett says.

This summer, the program expects to place more than 2,000 young people in jobs. But Barrett says it’s about much more than the money.

“We as adults have a moral obligation to create hope and opportunity in the lives of young people. And there are too many neighborhoods in the city of Milwaukee where jobs don’t exist. And if we’re going to convince kids that it’s important for them to stay in school we have to be able to show them there’s a correlation between school and work,” Barrett says.                                

As far as the mayor’s first jobs…

“I worked at Pete’s drug store, I was a newspaper carrier, and I was an usher at the very first Milwaukee Brewers game ever,” Barrett says.

Something tells me, 17-year-old Laticia Escovar might think she has topped the mayor.