Finding a job can be difficult at any age, but for high school students the task can be even more challenging. The Brookline Teen Center (BTC) is working hard to make job hunting easier and less daunting for local teenagers so that more of them who want a job can successfully get one. At the same time, it hopes to become a top resource for local businesses looking to hire young, hard-working talent.
Since opening its doors in 2013, the BTC has always listened to its client base, largely made up of Brookline High School students, and developed activities based off of their interests and needs. As more teenagers began to ask about local job opportunities, as well as for interview and resume help, the BTC sprang into action under the leadership of Brendan McCarthy, a part-time Youth Leader at the BTC and full-time Transition Counselor at Brookline High School.
“I sort of fell into this role,” says McCarthy. “At Brookline High School, I work with students who will be transitioning from high school to the ‘real’ world. This involves helping them with job placements and independent living skills. I had the right background for helping the growing number of kids here at BTC who want to take on a job in their spare time to make some money and/or enhance their resumes.”
Job Portal & Programming
Half the battle for many of these teenagers is just finding out what jobs are available for individuals with their experience levels. McCarthy worked to develop a job board on the BTC website where local employers can post jobs open to high school students. Flash jobs (one time opportunities), part-time jobs, and internships are all listed online. Employers submit their positions via an online application form and they are reviewed and confirmed by the BTC team. There is also a physical job bulletin board at the BTC where employers can come and tack up openings the old fashioned way. Several area businesses including Trader Joe’s and J.P. Licks have hired students after visiting the BTC and leaving applications behind.
“My hope is that local Brookline businesses who are open to hiring high school students keep the BTC top of mind,” he said. “The more businesses we can get to post jobs on the site, the more kids are going to go there to look for them. Everyone will benefit.”
In addition to connecting high school students and local businesses, the BTC is creating jobs through its own initiatives. For example, Youthscapers is a local, non-profit organization started by Paul Epstein, a social worker at Brookline High School and founder of the BTC, that is currently hiring high school students sixteen years or older for part-time, summer yard work. Based out of the BTC, eight teenagers will be hired as part of the Youthscapers first summer crew and will do yard maintenance and light moving work mainly for private clients throughout Brookline from July 6 to August 26. Anyone interested in working for or hiring Youthscapers this summer should contact the BTC.
Jobs and Pizza
The BTC takes a holistic approach when it comes to addressing teenage employment. Brendan and his team understand that for many kids knowing who is hiring is just the first step in a long, uncharted road. To provide students with additional support, the BTC hosted its first ever “Jobs and Pizza” seminar in the fall of 2015. In a relaxed environment over free pizza, interested students could ask any and all questions related to the employment process, while receiving help filling out applications, writing resumes and cover letters, and learning valuable interview tips. Nearly 10 students joined each of the three complimentary seminar sessions.
“Most of these kids have never had a formal job before,” said McCarthy. “They do not know how to create a resume or what to wear for an interview. Some do get help from their parents, but for many, these types of seminars are their best resource.”
More seminars are planned going forward.
McCarthy is quick to point out that there are a number of local businesses that have great track records of hiring local high school students. Two of the most notable ones are The Clay Room, a paint-your-own pottery studio at 1408 Beacon Street, and Brookline Booksmith, an independent bookstore at 279 Harvard Street in Coolidge Corner.
Up until a few years ago, Doug Fisher, the owner of The Clay Room, was a one-man show. He managed the store, worked with the customers, and ran the events and birthday parties.
“The store is open 7 days a week and I was working non-stop,” he said. “I first hired a few girls from Brookline High School and they were terrific. I have a wide audience of customers and they connected well with both children and senior citizens.”
Now, he has a number of high school students who work for him 80-90 hours per week.
“I try to work around their schedules,” Fisher continued. “After all, they provide me with a great service. I can now spend more time outside the store doing business development, which brings in additional revenue.”
Fisher receives at least one or two requests each week from students interested in working at his store, some of whom are in work education programs at their school and looking to get school credit. Even though he cannot accommodate everyone, he remains open-minded and flexible because he sees the all-around value in hiring these young workers.
Down the street from The Clay Room, Brookline Booksmith typically hires 2 to 3 students from Brookline High School each year – not just for the summer – and they are required to work a minimum of twenty hours per week year round. After completing a paper application, any candidate who is thought to be a good fit comes in for an interview with Dana Brigham, the store’s manager and co-owner, and generally one or both assistant managers.
“We have had great experiences hiring from the [Brookline] High School,” Brigham said. “These young students bring fresh eyes and attitudes to the store. We have employees ranging in ages from teenagers to well into their 80’s and it is wonderful to see the connections made and the knowledge that gets shared – on both ends.”
She also mentioned one young woman who worked at Brookline Booksmith as a student at Brookline High School and went on to study English and Journalism in college and now works in the publishing industry.
“Anything can happen when you give a young person a chance,” Brigham said.