Help wanted

<p>Rachael Lewis, 15, of Naperville, talks to an employer at the annual <a id=KidsMatter StudentJob Fairin 2011.  |   Jane Donahue/For Sun-Times Media

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Rachael Lewis, 15, of Naperville, talks to an employer at the annual KidsMatter StudentJob Fairin 2011.  |   Jane Donahue/For Sun-Times Media

Job prospects may be looking up for teens looking to find summer work.

Several years ago, the annual KidsMatter Student Job Fair drew barely 20 area businesses with positions to offer young workers. This year, more than twice that number are expected at the fair, set for 5 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Residence Hall/Recreation Center at North Central College, 440 S. Brainard St.

Bridget Hatch, marketing and event manager for KidsMatter, said the 45 participating businesses represent a good variety of employers, including single-outlet businesses such as Cookie Dough Creations and Hollywood Palms, as well as large companies such as Meijer, Standard Market, Lowe’s and McDonald’s. Some, including local garden centers, will have many jobs to fill.

A total of 1,750 part-time and seasonal jobs will be available, she said, as well as numerous internships.

“We’re hoping to draw from a wide pool of kids — from Bolingbrook, Plainfield, Aurora,” Hatch said.

Leading business owners from Naperville also will be taking part, conducting mock interviews and helping with skills including resume building. Participants also will learn how to enlist social media to help them find and land jobs.

“Many of our businesses — including McDonald’s, who is one of our sponsors — advertise jobs on Twitter,” Hatch said.

The workforce-preparation feature of the job fair sets it apart from similar events, she said, and is particularly valuable in the way it can help teens build confidence, even if they don’t come away from the fair with their dream job in hand.

“It is crazy to watch the difference in demeanor between an unsure, sort of gangly kid going into a first interview, and when they come out — taller, more confident,” Hatch said. “They’re able to shake hands, look boldly into someone’s eyes, make a connection.”

The event, which last year attracted some 1,800 job seekers, offers many jobs that pay minimum wage, but some are considerably more lucrative. One of the employers planning to take part pays its outdoor workers $14.50 hourly, Hatch said.

All of the events coordinated through KidsMatter are good ones, she said, but this one has a more direct and positive impact than some.

“We want to help kids succeed,” Hatch said. “This one really does it all, it encapsulates all of it.”