Best Practices - Vol. IV

Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr.

Mayor R. Keith Summey

Change a Life...Hire a Kid Campaign

The Charleston County Employment Training Administration (ETA), in conjunction with the City of Charleston, the City of North Charleston, the Charleston County Private Industry Council, and several other community partners, developed and launched the Change a Life...Hire a Kid Campaign during the summer of 1996 to address the consequences of the possible elimination of the JTPA Summer Youth Employment Program. JTPA traditionally provided employment opportunities for approximately 700 youths each summer in the public sector. While this program was not eliminated, the Change a Life...Hire a Kid Campaign was established to enhance the JTPA program by garnering private sector participation and provision of employment opportunities for low to moderate income youths between the ages of 14 and 21. Due to the leadership and endorsement of Mayors Joseph Riley and Keith Summey, this campaign was a major community event supported by Charleston County Council, the Charleston County School District, the Trident Urban League, the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, WCIV Channel 4, WEZL-FM Radio, and WWWZ-FM Radio. The City of Charleston has long been a supporter and provider of youth employment training programs and the City of North Charleston's Mayor has personally attested to the importance of employment opportunities for young people.

In Charleston County, there are over 27,000 kids between the ages of 14 and 21 who are available to work each summer. Of this number, approximately 15,000 are economically disadvantaged or at risk of dropping out of school. Loss of summer employment opportunities means no income for the many teens who depend on summer work to supplement their family incomes, no work experience to give them a leg up when they enter the job market upon graduation, and a possible rise in all the problems associated with youth unemployment -- crime, teen pregnancy, and increasing school drop-out rates. Campaign sponsors asked private sector businesses to provide meaningful work opportunities for area youths for six weeks at minimum wage. This far reaching investment cost businesses approximately $600, which included wages, FICA, and Workers' Compensation. All employers had to do was call a special phone bank with job specifications; ETA staff and campaign volunteers did the rest, i.e., conducting basic prescreening and assessment to determine youths' aptitudes and interests, analyzing school test scores and work histories in order to make the best match between the youths' skills and abilities and an employer's needs.

The campaign was officially launched on April 16, 1996 with a major media blitz which included live radio and television, and print media. This publicity blitz resulted in calls from 94 employers who made commitments for over 200 jobs, e.g., in law offices, physicians' offices, computer companies, libraries, retail stores, hospitals, hotels, etc. While officials asked for at least six weeks of work at minimum wage, numerous employers offered full-time employment opportunities at wages far above minimum. In fact, many of these employment opportunities led to full-time permanent positions. Benefits went two ways: Employers obtained young, eager and able employees to meet their personnel needs; youths were provided work experience, exposure to strong employment foundations, and a measure of financial independence.

As a result of this first success, plans were launched for the 1997 campaign. An early start was designed to ensure more private sector employers were able to participate, thereby providing more employment opportunities for area youths. Many local employers quickly confirmed their participation for the summer of 1997.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, Charleston, 803-724-3737
Office of the Mayor, North Charleston, 803-554-5700

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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