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Menino calls on tech firms to hire teens this summer

Menino seeks tech slots for students

Teens with summer jobs are more likely to find themselves behind a counter than in front of a computer.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston is hoping to change that, and he’s calling on the city’s newest corporate citizens for help. As he launches his annual campaign for summer jobs for teens today, the mayor is asking Boston’s tech and Web companies to make room for high schoolers during the summer break.

“Companies like the ones that have set up shop in our Innovation District are the next generation of business in Boston, and our summer youth employment effort helps to create the next generation of workers in Boston,’’ Menino said. “It’s vital that the two come together.’’


Menino is speaking the language of start-ups to get their attention for the campaign, in which he hopes to place about 3,000 students with private companies. He’s starting on the Internet, where the mayor’s office will launch the website www.bostonsummerjobs.org sometime today, and will take to Twitter and Facebook to promote the effort.

In past years, the mayor’s summer jobs campaign has placed young people at more traditional companies, like State Street Corp. and Partners HealthCare. Those firms are still involved, but there are new participants in newer industries, such as the clean-energy storage provider FastCap Systems Corp. and Gemvara, the online jeweler.

“We take in a lot of college interns,’’ said Audrey Lampert, who coordinates hiring at Gemvara. “It was kind of out of curiosity to see what it would be like to have a high school student, and it was a terrific experience.’’

Lampert said Gemvara, which has 70 employees, will bring in at least one Boston student this summer.

The question is whether high school students have the skills that tech start-ups are looking for. Those companies tend to hire college students who want to build websites to fill summer positions. “The types of things that we are looking for in a start-up space, would be skills like Web design and HTML coding,’’ said Bruce Kasrel, head of marketing for Buzzient, a Boston enterprise software company founded in 2008. “Finding that kind of kid is a challenge.’’


But it’s not impossible. If there’s a new, young Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook cofounder, somewhere in Boston, Kasrel wants to hear from them. “There are plenty of teenagers who can grasp this fairly quickly,’’ he said.

Nationally, technology companies aren’t known for hiring teens in the summer, said Andrew Sum, an economics professor who heads the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. The 30 percent of US high school students who found jobs last summer, he said, were mostly working in retail, fast food, or entertainment, such as in movie theaters.

Massachusetts did better than the national average for teen employment last summer, he said, with 42 percent of teens working, making the state the 13th highest for employing young people during the season. In 2010, 36 percent of high school students worked during that time period, a 30-year low, said Sum.

Last summer’s gains, he said, were partially due to economic growth, but also because many cities around the state, such as Boston, made a concerted effort to find jobs for students, especially at-risk and disadvantaged youth. Also, he pointed out, the state spent about $6 million to help create summer jobs last year. For the coming summer, Governor Deval Patrick has requested $9 million in summer jobs funding in the state’s budget.


Some of that money will go to Boston to help fund summer jobs in the public sector; the city hopes to place more than 7,000 students in subsidized jobs in nonprofits or public works departments. There’s no subsidy for the students who earn $8 to $12 an hour and work up to 35 hours a week in the private sector.

Last year, the mayor’s office said, there weren’t enough jobs to go around. “We need to involve more businesses, and we need to reach out to new partners,’’ said Menino.

Michael B. Farrell can be reached at michael.farrell@globe.com.