By Sam Woods
Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.
Since 2004, Milwaukee’s Earn and Learn program has been a consistent community fixture, giving thousands of young people a summer job, money in their pockets and a role in the community.
But with uncertainty over whether youths will be able to work in offices given the “Safer at Home” mandate, officials have canceled the Summer Youth Internship Program, a component of Earn and Learn.
“Departments just are not in a position to begin hosting interns by next month,” said Vanessa Armstrong of the Department of City Development, which oversees the program.
The Summer Youth Internship Program was planning to place 110 interns in various roles in city government this summer.
Interns were set to work 20 hours per week at $11.52 an hour for eight weeks. It’s one of three components of the overall Earn and Learn program.
Typically, the Earn and Learn program employs over 1,000 young people each summer through its Summer Youth Internship Program, Community Work Experience and Private Sector Job Connection components. All three place young people within city government, local nonprofits and community groups, and the private sector, respectively.
The Community Work Experience typically places 800 to 1,200 young people each year, according to Employ Milwaukee, which oversees the program.
Tim McMurtry, community relations manager of Employ Milwaukee, said Community Work Experience is still taking applications from youths. The deadline is 3 p.m. Saturday, May 9.
“Our expectations for summer youth programming is to continue to follow our typical model as best we can,” McMurtry said.
“It’s still a ‘play-it-by-ear’ type of thing,” said McMurtry. “Everyone has their fingers crossed that the governor will lift the ‘Safer at Home’ order after May 26, and they’re banking on people being able to go back to work this summer.”
Community Work Experience matches those ages 14 to 24 with employers in the nonprofit, community and faith-based sectors.
Employees earn $7.50 per hour for 20 hours per week, though prior participants like Simone Lewis-Turner remember the intangible benefits of participating in the program.
“We learned how to be in a professional culture, how to do interviews, build a resume, say an elevator pitch, code-switch, things like that,” said Lewis-Turner, a graduating senior who has participated in the program since her rising freshman summer at placements including Lead2Change, Urban Underground and Vincent High School’s agricultural program.
“I was able to help provide for my family,” she said. “I was able to earn some money and put food on the table.”