The Inside Scoop on Summer Gigs

"Sorry. We’re really looking for someone with more experience."

Don’t let that response mandate a summer of minimum-wage monotony standing over some deep-fryer at your local grease pit. While most of the really great summer jobs in bucolic locales — working for the National Park Service or at a summer camp in Catalina — have early application deadlines, you can definitely find rewarding work in your own back yard. Why fill out job applications at every store in the mall? Use the following local resources to stack the deck in your favor.

Ask the experts

One of the huge advantages of utilizing youth job programs is this: Their mission is to get you work, and they have the know-how to do it. Their pool of prospective employers is committed to giving motivated kids a break in entry-level positions, and they know that most of their student workers can work full-time for only a couple of months. While you may not get your dream job the first time out, the programs discussed below ensure that your labor this summer will pay the bills for now, while giving you an employment edge for the future.

L.A. Youth at Work

(213) 237-1584

No car doesn’t have to mean no job, even in L.A. Thanks to a decentralized partnership with over 30 nonprofit and private-sector agencies, L.A. Youth at Work’s resources are available citywide and year-round, although the bulk of job placement occurs during the summer. Multiple access points and private-sector funding means that anyone between 16 and 21 years of age can get employment assistance without singing the MTA cross-town blues — or being ruled out by residential or income restrictions.

Almost every weekend, LAYAW offers seminars, rotating through the LAUSD’s high schools, on wedging your inexperienced foot in the company door. After completing the five-hour seminar of need-to-know topics such as interviewing techniques and workplace culture, you’re ready to be matched with a job, one of a host of positions in offices, construction, retail and more. Dreaming of a career in entertainment or biomedicine? Check out the details with the Industry-Specific Training Program, a three- to four-week series of Saturday workshops featuring presentations by professionals and hands-on job experience. When the program’s over, grads get paired with a mentor and become eligible for coveted paid internships.

Summer Youth Employment and Training Program

(213) 485-2115

Serving a whopping 14,500 local kids last year, Summer Youth Employment and Training Program (SYETP) is the Big Kahuna of youth-job programs. Its services in-clude an innovative communitywide academic-enrichment program to supplement first-time paid work experiences at museums, city agencies and rec centers. Applicants must meet a number of federal residence, income and age guidelines in order to qualify, but those who make the cut can benefit immensely. Once selected, kids have the option of earning minimum-wage and high-school-graduation credits while attending 20-person classes, held all over L.A. Courses teach pre-job skills (résumé writing, interviewing techniques) and hands-on career exploration (through field trips, professional guest speakers, and library and computer research). Using group projects and real-life economic exercises such as devising cost-of-living budgets, classes encourage formation of career goals and foster cooperation among students typically divided by ethnicity and academic disparity.

Unite L.A.

(213) 482-3987

"We work with everybody — college-age kids, kids with disabilities, at-risk teens," explains Unite L.A. coordinator David Rattray, adding that there are no income restrictions for participation. Part of the city’s Schools-to-Careers network, ULA is a diverse coalition drawing on the resources of more than 50 member agencies and corporations, including the AFL-CIO, KCET public television and IBM. Incoming young people are referred to staff specialists who work year-round to develop paid and non-paid job options for kids. These include internships, job shadowing and mentoring, and cooperative-education opportunities in five high-growth industries — health/ biotechnology, entertainment, manufacturing, travel/ tourism and transportation. While many opportunities can and do lead to paid employment, the goal of the program goes beyond mere job placement, aiming instead to prepare students from all backgrounds for successful entry into challenging careers and higher education.

D.I.Y. Job Resources

So you’re a rebel, huh, and you don’t want to commit to some "program." Maybe you got lazy in the early-summer haze and accidentally-on-purpose missed the application deadlines. It’s not too late to take matters into your own hands — and a little initiative goes a long way. Spend some productive hours in an air-conditioned career center, or hop online to post your résumé and apply for jobs without ever leaving the house.

City of L.A. One-Stop Workforce and Industry Resource Centers

Locations throughout L.A.

(800) FOR A JOB

Location, location, location. Free to all city residents, more than 20 One-Stop branches and satellites dot the map from Marina del Rey to Boyle Heights, extending south to Carson and north to Chatsworth. Once you’ve surveyed the job listings at your nearest center, get to work on the computers to fine-tune your résumé or conduct an Internet job search. Phone and fax banks let you contact potential employers on the spot, then shoot off cover letters and curricula vitae.

Cal State Northridge Career Center

18111 Nordhoff St.


(818) 677-2878

Reportedly one of the most extensive career re-sources in SoCal, the facility at Cal State Northridge is also one of the few college career centers open to the public. One-day passes, available for a small fee at the reception desk, give all comers access to a library stuffed with information on career planning, salary information, and internship and volunteer job listings. Come equipped with a roll of dimes for the copier, and feel free to consult the walk-in counselor for reference questions and general information.

Women at Work

50 N. Hill Ave., Suite 300


(626) 796-6870

"Just bring your brains, paper and a pencil," counsels Women at Work’s Cecile Goodwin, adding, "We’ve got a big summer job book." All ages (and both genders) are welcome at this friendly nonprofit drop-in center, founded 20 years ago to help women address employment issues and inequities. A $2 donation gets you access to the library and a brief tour of its contents: employment listings, college-aid guides, information on obtaining work abroad, and industry and occupational videotapes. While using the equipment isn’t free — computers rent out for $5 an hour, faxes are $1 per page, and copies are a quarter a pop — it’s still cheaper and more convenient than scribbling down leads and schlepping to Kinko’s.

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