Mayor Greg Fischer launches SummerWorks at UPS WorldPort | Photo by Melissa Chipman

Mayor Greg Fischer launches SummerWorks at UPS WorldPort | Photo by Melissa Chipman

UPS will hire as many as 100 high school juniors this summer and offer them a pipeline to a free college education — part of the 2016 SummerWorks program, which Mayor Greg Fischer officially launched at UPS WorldPort Monday morning.

SummerWorks is the teen summer jobs initiative Fischer created in 2011 in response to the elimination of federal funding for summer jobs.

This summer will mark the first time UPS has hired youths for jobs. The juniors will be given the opportunity to transition into the School-to-Work program where, during their senior year, the students will attend school in the morning, work in the afternoon and take college classes. After graduation, students can remain employed with UPS and be part of the Earn & Learn or Metropolitan College programs where they can work part time while UPS pays their college tuition.

In the first year of the SummerWorks program, 200 students enrolled. Last year that number exceeded 2,500, and this year the mayor said he expects to see upwards of 2,750 young people in the program.

Other companies joining UPS as first timers in the program include Humana and Kindred Health Care.

“It’s not just a paycheck,” said Fischer, “it teaches other skills including self-discipline.”

A recent study showed that young people who have participated in SummerWorks go on to the workforce and to pursue higher education in greater numbers than those who did not participate.

Fischer said he wanted every business to think about hiring at least one SummerWorks participant. If they can’t, they can sponsor a student for $2,500, and the city will put them to work in a city agency or nonprofit.

Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens said there are “lots of students” wanting to work this summer and that the program helps kids graduate “prepared, empowered and inspired to reach their full potential.”

While there is no study that correlates the program to a decrease in crime, Fischer said that in the face of what’s been happening in places like Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, we need programs like SummerWorks to create more “social cohesion.”

The Metro Council Budget Committee has recommended that $400,000 of the city’s surplus be committed to the program. Mayor Fischer urged council members to approve the funding during their Thursday meeting.

Companies returning to the SummerWorks program include GE, Glowtouch Technologies, the Belle of Louisville, and the Louisville Zoo.

Both students and potential employers can get details and apply at the SummerWorks website.