By JENNIFER SHIMA
Tribune Chronicle correspondent
Tionia Wallace, Kay Lynn and Jarell Thompson discuss how to evaluate an unconscious person.
Baby-sitting has become an industry like any other, and for today's pre-teens, it's a serious business.
"I want to make money," said 12-year-old Jarell Thompson, the only male in the American Red Cross baby sitter training class on a recent Friday afternoon. "It's my business."
He and his 11-year-old cousin, Tionia Wallace, plan to break into the baby-sitting business together, and they're starting by getting the best education they can.
"(The class) goes over the basics, how to change diapers, how to pick up an infant, how to pick up a toddler, and burping and safe play, all that stuff, right through when to call 911, when to call the parents, what to do if a baby or a child is choking, first aid - it runs the full gamut," said Guido Jannetti, director of health and safety services at the American Red Cross in Warren.
Kay Lynn, an American Red Cross instructor and maven of childcare safety, said, "By the time they leave, they tell me they've had fun and that they feel better about being in charge."
But learning how to provide safe, effective childcare is only part of it.
Students leave the class with business cards, interview experience, training in marketing and questionnaires for employers, which read like contracts. In the past, the American Red Cross has sponsored baby-sitting job fairs.
"We teach them how to make a resume," Lynn said. "I read sample resumes to the class, and we decide what's missing and whether or not we would hire that person. In fact, one of the chapters that I teach is called 'the business of baby-sitting.'"
Thompson and Wallace hope that their teamwork approach combined with their American Red Cross certification will be met with big payoffs.
"Having this course makes them more wanted because as soon as prospective parents find out that they have training and that it's American Red Cross, they are more likely to hire those baby sitters," Lynn said. "Some graduates have kept really busy.
"Our society is getting more 'you need to work,' and so it's getting more important with younger kids that see that," Lynn said.
One enterprising graduate contacted the American Red Cross seeking 30 extra business cards because she ran an ad in the newspaper advertising her availability and she made as many contacts. However, the Red Cross encourages young sitters to practice networking as a way of developing contacts.
"I promote going through family, friends, church, school, trusted adults, and branch out that way," Lynn said. "We try to steer away from the general public because you never know what you're going to reach."
The skills potential baby sitters gain from taking a more personal approach may pay off more in the long run. These pre-teens are learning how to talk to people, how to sell themselves and what they do. For a generation that considers computer networking second nature, learning personal networking skills may provide greater life-long benefits than harnessing the technology they were born understanding to advertise their business.
These young entrepreneurs may be a powerful force in the baby-sitting industry, but they still have big competition.
Four days after Ashley Rimer and her husband, Sean, moved to town from Nebraska, they had their first child. More than a month later, with no friends or family in the area, they have no idea what they're going to do for a baby sitter.
One option is an Internet search.
A search for the 44483 ZIP code on Sittercity.com, for example, yields 200 listings for people within a 20-mile radius who want to be sitters or nannies; most of these candidates are college students and mothers with vast experience.
Each hopeful sitter provides a photo, description of his or her special skills, rates, availability and a host of other information that a prospective employer might not only find useful, but convenient.
But for people who have lived in the area, there's no better option than the kid next door, especially if that kid is an American Red Cross-certified sitter, the Red Cross instructors said.
"If parents want someone who's educated and trained and with whom they feel very safe, they're willing to pay for the quality," said Jannetti, and the kids are willing to charge for it.
"I'm going to charge maybe $10 an hour," Thompson said.
According to a pay scale website, the hourly wage range for baby sitters in the Youngstown-Warren area is between $5 and $10 an hour.
One sales principle Thompson hopes will be true is that people pay for quality, and they know it when they see it handed to them by an 11-year-old on a professional-looking resume.