With college tuition payments in mind, Max Allen started looking for a second job this summer.
The paychecks from a part-time gig at a sandwich shop didn't go quite far enough for the 19-year-old student from Mendota Heights. He was going to start digging to find something else, but he stumbled upon a pleasant surprise when talking to advisers at Inver Hills Community College: a part-time summer job in the counseling office paid for by the federal stimulus bill.
"It just happened," Allen said. "It was incredible. The job is fantastic."
His is one of about 300 teen and young adult jobs created this summer in Dakota County with $410,802 from the federal stimulus package. That's the local share of the $17.8 million sent to the state to generate jobs for disadvantaged teens and young adults ages 15 to 24.
The infusion of youth job funding more than doubles the usual 180 jobs that the Workforce Service of Dakota County funds annually through a state program. The jobs at five public and nonprofit agencies are available to teens and young adults who meet limited-income requirements or have developmental disabilities.
That's particularly helpful at a time when there's increased competition for typical teen jobs at restaurants, retail outlets and parks and recreation departments. In a recent review of teens' employment prospects this summer, the Minnesota State Department of Employment and Economic Development noted that sectors that often employ youth, including leisure and hospitality and full-service restaurants, are among those hardest hit by the down economy.
And parks and recreation staff members from around the metro area note they've seen adults applying for seasonal jobs often held by teens.
"What we used to call summer youth jobs, the fast food restaurants and whatnot, they're being filled with dislocated workers," said Will Branning, a Dakota County commissioner who sits on the local workforce board.
Yet teens are still looking for summer opportunities, full-time and part-time.
Stacy Klein, a workforce development representative at the Workforce Center in Burnsville, said about 40 teens have come in looking for jobs in June, many of them after school let out for the summer.
And applications have been plentiful for the jobs offered through the federal stimulus program.
The Dakota County libraries saw 33 applications in four days when they posted the library shelving assistant jobs. They plan to hire 18 teens to put books back on the shelves this summer, two for each of the nine branch libraries, likely starting next week.
The Dakota County Community Development Agency (CDA), which hired three young adults to help with yard work and maintenance at its properties around the county, interviewed about a dozen candidates.
The trio will go through orientation just like any CDA employee, to get a feel for what a real long-term job is like, said Kurt Keena, CDA's director of property management.
"It's not just the employment," Keena said, "It's the experience of being employed."
Allen agrees that's a valuable lesson -- and one he'll remember as he continues to work on his associate's degree at Inver Hills this fall.
"It takes a lot of skill," he said. "It is teaching me how to work in proximity with people and in a professional setting."
Katie Humphrey • 952-882-9056