Trimming weeds at the park, sorting canned goods for the Salvation Army or guiding guests through the World of Wonders Children's Museum are just some of the jobs Lodi youths are doing this summer as the federal government picks up the tab.
The jobs are part of a federal stimulus program to get low-income youths employed at various nonprofits and governmental entities, working between 20 and 30 hours a week at $8 an hour.
Some, like 14-year-old Nauman Khattak, participated because they wanted their first summer job. He is working in the city's economic development department scanning documents.
"I had nothing to do over the summer and wanted to get some money," he said.
Others, like 24-year-old Carlos Gomez, signed up for the program after not being able to find a job in the poor economy.
San Joaquin County's WorkNet program received $4.8 million in stimulus money and is using it to employ 1,600 people between the ages of 14 and 24, said Maria Castellanos, who is the customer management division supervisor for WorkNet.
The city of Lodi has hired 33 of the interns, and others have been placed with the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum, El Concilio, People Assisting Lodi Shelter, the Chamber of Commerce, the Community Partnership for Families and the Christa McAuliffe and Millswood middle schools, Castellanos said. She said she wasn't sure how many workers had been placed at the other organizations.
Need extra help?Any nonprofits in San Joaquin County willing to provide jobs for youths between the ages of 14 and 24 should contact WorkNet at (209) 468-3500. The employees can work 20 to 30 hours a week and they are paid through the federal stimulus program.
It has always been hard for 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds to find jobs, but it is even more difficult this summer.
"They are competing with the unemployment rate, which is so high in San Joaquin County," she said.
In May, San Joaquin was at 15 percent unemployment with 46,500 people out of work, according to preliminary numbers from California's Economic Development Department.
The jobs will continue through August for students still in school, and possibly longer for older youth, Castellanos said.
WorkNet asked the teens and young adults what they were interested in and tried to assign them to a similar job, she said.
With nine workers in the Parks and Recreation Department Superintendent Steve Dutra said the young adults are learning skills that could lead to careers. When he was young, Dutra said he participated for two summers in a program through San Joaquin County, where he did landscaping.
"It's two-fold because we are employing the youths of the community and, more importantly, providing them marketable skills to take into the workforce," Dutra said.
While holding a buzzing weed trimmer, 20-year-old Doug Bennett said he has previously worked delivering pizza and in retail. He said this is his first landscaping job, and he is excited to add another skill under his belt to tell future employers.
Bennett was working with Lodi employee Pete Melendez on Monday morning to clear out dead grass and debris from the Lodi Lake levee in preparation for the Fourth of July. Melendez had also worked as a summer youth in Stockton.
"I think it gives you the opportunity to experience jobs, and you may not like it and study harder. But you may like something you are doing, and excel from there," he said.
With the city budget slimmed down, Deputy City Manager Jordan Ayers said the extra help will accomplish tasks that normally would not get done.
In the parks department, permanent staff have been able to focus on some plumbing issues in the park to make sure all the toilets, urinals and sinks are ready for the Fourth of July, Dutra said.
Several of the young employees are also sorting and scanning paper documents so they will be searchable electronically, Ayers said.
"It's an opportunity to get work experience and see what the public sector is like, as opposed to retail or construction. … We could be grooming the future city of Lodi employees," he said.
WorkNet is still in the process of placing applicants with non-profit organizations, said Castellanos.
"The purpose of the program is to give economically-disadvantaged youths an opportunity to participate in a summer employment opportunity to work, learn and earn income," she said.
Doug Bennett, 20Employer: City of Lodi parks department.
Job responsibilities: Painting, picking up trash, changing garbage cans, placing signs in the park, weed trimming and pruning.
About the job: Bennett was interested in working outside because his previous jobs have been in retail and pizza delivery. The most interesting part has been learning the basics of landscaping, he said.
Plans: He wants to go to ITT Technical Institute because he has always enjoyed working with computers.
Julio Garcia, 18Employer: El Concilio - Council for the Spanish-speaking.
Job responsibilities: Filing, telephones, assisting customers who come in, making copies and shredding.
About the job: "It has been an opportunity to gain experience in an office environment," he said. He plans to use his boss as a reference when applying for office jobs in the future.
Plans: He will attend school in Monterey Bay and is undecided what his major will be. He hopes having a summer job on his resume will get him a better on-campus job.
Carlos Gomez, 24Employer: Salvation Army.
Job responsibilities: Working in the warehouse sorting donations.
About the job: After not being able to find work for a while, Gomez applied for the program and was placed with the Salvation Army. He said the job is similar to other full-time ones he has had before.
Plans: He is saving money to attend San Joaquin Delta College.
Brittany Jones, 17Employer: City of Lodi economic development department.
Job responsibilities: Scanning and filing documents.
About the job: Jones had applied to other jobs like McDonald's, but was turned away because she lacked experience. She said this will provide her with better skills for a future job.
Plans: Jones will participate in YouthBuild next year, which is a 12-month training program where youths work toward completing a high school diploma or GED while also helping to build affordable housing and learning other job skills.
Nauman Khattak, 14Employer: City of Lodi economic development department.
Job responsibilities: Scan and file documents.
About the job: He wanted a summer job to earn some extra money and because there is not much to do over the summer. He hopes it will give him experience for future jobs.
Plans: He will continue at Tokay High School.
"I'm doing hard work at school, too, so this gets me ready for it," he said.