Interest in job supplier peaks

YouthWorks unable to help about 4,000 job seekers

Private funding declines

Shortfall forces reduction in length of employment

July 06, 2004|By Lester J. Davis | Lester J. Davis,SUN STAFF

Hurt by a shortfall in its budget, a city jobs program for young people has been unable to offer summer employment to more than 4,000 applicants.

A record 7,000 people ages 14 to 21 sought jobs through Baltimore's YouthWorks program, but it only had enough funding for 2,780 participants, said Diana L. Spencer of the Mayor's Office of Employment Development.

The shortfall also has forced the program to cut the length of employment for participants from six weeks to five. The young workers start their jobs Monday.

YouthWorks has received about $1.9 million this year - $1 million from the city, about $700,000 from the nonprofit Baltimore City Foundation, $64,000 from the U.S. Department of Labor and $168,000 from charities, businesses and individuals.

Program officials said they are getting the same amount of money as last year from the city, but there has been a drop in contributions from private sources. They are seeking contributions in an effort to bolster the program's resources. Last year, it had sufficient funding for all 4,298 applicants.

YouthWorks finds its participants jobs ranging from cashiers at pharmacies to tour guides at the USS Constellation Museum at the Inner Harbor. They are paid the minimum wage, $5.15 an hour. Typically, YouthWorks places applicants with employers and subsidizes workers' pay.

Most YouthWorks employees work an average of 30 hours a week, said Alice D. M. Cole, director of career development services in the Mayor's Office of Employment Development. Registration for summer jobs began in March, Cole said, and those who signed up right away were given top consideration.

YouthWorks is a valuable tool because "young people often learn about different careers ... that help them shape their ideas about working," Spencer said. "I can't see how this program is anything but a good investment for everyone."

Competition for jobs

Teenagers face keen competition for jobs this summer, said Andy Sum, director of Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies.

"The increased availability of immigrant workers, the abundance of college graduates willing to take jobs once reserved for teenagers and the large number of senior citizens willing to work" have contributed to anemic job opportunities for youth workers, Sum said.

In 2000, the most recent year the job market was robust, 52 percent of teens landed jobs, Sum said. Last year, however, that figure dropped to 42 percent. He estimates this summer's outlook will stay the same.

Program kickoff

While thousands of youths are pounding the pavement in search of employment, about 200 YouthWorks participants gathered at the War Memorial Plaza in front of City Hall on Thursday morning for a kickoff ceremony attended by Mayor Martin O'Malley, City Council members and community leaders.

Linda Robinson accompanied her 14-year-old son, Shawn Tiller, to the ceremony. Tiller has a job in the Department of Public Works' solid waste facility.

Robinson said she was glad YouthWorks found a job for her son. "It gives him something to do, and he can learn how to manage his money," she said.

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