Mayor Alvin Brown and other local business leaders joined together to announce the 2014 Summer Jobs Program. The Summer Jobs Program is a comprehensive program providing Jacksonville youth with real work experience to acquire increased understanding of the work environment, employer expectations and personal responsibility. “One of the most important things we can do for our young people is to help introduce them to the world of work so they gain the productive skills and habits that will serve them for a lifetime,” said Mayor Brown. “The Summer Jobs Program is another great example of public-private partnerships, with all of us working together to invest in the success of our next generation. It’s far better to have our teens spending their summer on the job, learning and earning, instead of on the streets, hanging out and messing around.” The program is a win-win for both participating youth and businesses. Bi-Lo Holdings, parent company of Winn-Dixie stores, is one of many local businesses providing jobs to area youth. This year, Winn-Dixie is offering opportunities for 25 youth. “Thirty percent of our workforce is between the ages of 16 and 21, which shows how important this age group is to our organization,” said Bi-Lo Holdings Vice President of Communications and Community Brian Wright. “Many young associates choose to make a lifelong career in the grocery business and we look forward to having the students of this worthwhile program join the Winn-Dixie team this summer.” Among other businesses stepping up to participate in the program is Web.com, providing ten jobs. “Web.com is very pleased to support the youth of Jacksonville by providing internship opportunities under the City’s Summer Jobs Program,” said Roseann Duran, executive vice president and chief people officer for Web.com. “We believe that the Summer Jobs Program can provide productive alternatives to help our youth gain the knowledge, skills and experience needed to succeed in life.” The six-to-eight week program is designed to prepare youth with job readiness and soft skills training to compete in the global economy. These are full-time or part-time positions that pay at least minimum wage. Last year, the City of Jacksonville was able to offer more than 600 positions to youth through the Summer Jobs Program. This year’s goal is to provide 800 opportunities. The Summer Jobs Program is part of Mayor Brown’s larger Youth Initiative launched in January to increase summer job opportunities, expand efforts to keep first-time, nonviolent juvenile offenders out of repeat trouble and develop youth leaders in the community. Davis said there is a need for more businesses to step up to the plate and become partners in this program. “Experiencing the responsibility of having a job and learning to solve problems by collaborating in a work environment is so important for young people starting in the workforce,” Davis said. “The more local business can help provide these experiences and lessons to our future leaders, the more ready to for work these students will be when they start looking for a full-time job.” The competitive program is offered to Duval County residents between the ages of 16 and 21. Participants must apply and be selected, as positions are limited. To learn more about the program and to apply starting Wednesday, May 21, visit www.coj.net/summerjobs. Businesses interested in participating can send an email to MayorsSummerJobs@coj.net. The program runs June 16 through August 8.