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Hire a teen this summer, invest in Charlotte region’s future

By Charles Bowman
Special to the Observer

Tomorrow’s workforce depends on opportunities for today’s youth.

For high school students, summer used to signal a break from learning in the classroom in order to gain valuable real-world experience via a summer job or internship. I still remember pouring concrete at age 18, which taught me the value of hard work and importance of working with a team. It may be a different path from my current career at Bank of America, but the experiences and skills I gained have helped guide my professional development.

Research indicates that teens who are gainfully employed have lower dropout rates, are more likely to continue their education toward long-term career goals and ultimately show an increase in lifetime earning potential. As Charlotte’s economy evolves, its stability and growth depends on an educated, talented and experienced workforce.

However, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, we are seeing some of the lowest rates of employed youth since recording began in 1948. North Carolina ranks eleventh in the country for teen unemployment at 26 percent, according to the Employment Policies Institute. If we hope to advance Charlotte and the state’s future workforce, we need to support summer job opportunities for our youth.

Last week marked the start of the Mayor’s Youth Employment Program (MYEP), which will provide 320 Charlotte-Mecklenburg School students with their first summer job experience, thanks to the support of 80 local businesses and nonprofits. The growth of this program is a testament to Mayor Anthony Foxx building upon his predecessors’ focus on education and workforce opportunities. This is a critical program that provides young men and women the chance to develop their career goals, translate their experience to achieve academically and enhance social skills that enable them to succeed in life.

I’m proud to say that Bank of America has proudly been supporting the MYEP, as well as similar regionally focused summer programs across the country. We also support our own youth employment programs, which will employ nearly 1,300 teens this summer. The need to create youth employment opportunities is a sentiment shared with 80 other local employers supporting the MYEP this summer. Yet more can be done when a quarter of our youth can’t find employment.

Charlotte needs its business community to come together and grow its investment in teen employment opportunities to groom our next wave of professionals. I’m proud to be a part of our business community, and I’m certain that together we can make a difference in the lives and experiences of our youth.

Charles Bowman is the North Carolina and Charlotte market president for Bank of America.
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