Tim Herman, CEO, Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce Tim Herman, CEO

Last week, Michigan’s Department of Technology, Management & Budget (DTMB) issued its summer 2015 job market forecast for Michigan teens. The teen unemployment rate is expected to decline by 2.8 percent from last summer. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the unemployment rate for teens is still projected to be 17.2 percent statewide. Locally, that number is even higher.

While the downward trend is positive news, there’s still a tremendous need for the business community to work together and bring innovative ideas to the table. The ultimate goal; every Flint & Genesee teenager who wants a summer job can get one.

Our TeenQuest and Summer Youth Initiative (SYI) programs – which are generously funded by the C. S. Mott Foundation – are all about preparation and jobs for teens. The programs also benefit from grants from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, AT&T, Ruth Mott Foundation, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Workforce Investment Act program and the Sunrise Rotary.

Our Chamber partners with area employers – nonprofits and for-profits – to provide summer employment opportunities. In 2014 alone, over 600 teens were hired for summer jobs through SYI.

Young people, ages 14-19, who are interested in a summer job must first participate in and graduate from TeenQuest. TeenQuest is a highly focused, five-week employment and training program where participants learn immediately useable skills, such as business etiquette, teamwork, communication, goal-setting, and work ethic in preparation for summer employment.

Through this program, we are making a tremendous impact on many of our local youth. But we need to do more to grow these programs. One of the ways to do this is for the business community to rally around this critical need, and hire teens for the summer.

Entrepreneurs, small business owners, solo practitioners and larger companies alike: It’s time to bring the best minds together and determine how we can employ more of our local teenagers. Some of you might be saying that you can’t afford to. I say we can’t afford not to. Hiring a teen gives him/her a way to be productive, earn income and an accomplishment to be proud of. It also benefits the community.

Keep in mind that hiring teens through SYI comes with a benefit. If you can’t afford to hire them, the SYI program will pay all costs for nonprofits and 50 percent of costs to hire at a for-profit. So think about it. Can you really afford not to?

Anyone who is interested in more details should contact Rhetta Hunyady at rhunyady@flintandgenesee.org.  Either Rhetta or a member of her staff would be glad to speak with your team or come out and visit to share more about the programs.

Remember, our local teens are counting on us!