Mayors Make Summer Employment for Teens a Priority

Article excerpt

Facing what is likely to be the bleakest summer employment picture for teens in recent history, and against a backdrop of the federal government's failure to respond to this looming crisis, mayors across the country are working to increase the number of young people they can place in summer jobs in their communities.

Cities have promoted youth employment through summer jobs programs for many years. Despite tight budgets and difficult economic conditions, many local leaders continue to place a priority on summer youth employment by investing city dollars in jobs programs and working with local businesses to secure additional placements and funding.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley recently announced that the city will spend an extra $1.5 million dollars this year to provide summer employment opportunities for an additional 1,000 young people in communities with high levels of youth violence and low economic opportunities.

Under the leadership of Mayor Sheila Dixon, the City of Baltimore has made summer jobs for youth a priority through the YouthWorks program. Working with employers, community groups, foundations, state agencies and the faith-based community, the city has secured enough job commitments to employ more than 6,700 youth this summer.

"These experiences will help develop the proper work ethic, instill a sense of pride that comes from a job well done, and spark vocational interests that lead to building a career," said Mayor Dixon, "and we know that all our citizens benefit when our teenagers are productively involved during the summer."

In Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has successfully worked with local businesses, government agencies and community groups to provide 10,000 youth with jobs during 2007-08 as part of the HIRE LA's Youth Campaign, which includes a Summer Youth Employment Program for youth ages 14-21 administered by the city's Community Development Department.

"Early work experience generates a number of strong positive impacts on short-term and long-term employment and earnings," said Mayor Villaraigosa.

Lower teen pregnancy and dropout rates among disadvantaged youth have also been linked to higher employment rates for teens. Many also see summer employment as a way to keep teens safe during the months they are not in school.

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Fewer Jobs for Youth Anticipated This Year

Summer employment provides teenagers with an opportunity to gain valuable work experience and develop their skills. Many also depend on summer jobs to save money for college and other expenses, and to help support their families by supplementing the household income. However, recent economic downturns and demographic trends have steadily eroded the job market for youth, and many teenagers are finding it increasingly difficult to secure employment for the summer months.

A new report from Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies predicts that this year, the teen summer employment rate will drop to 34.2 percent. This rate would be slightly lower than the 2007 summer employment rate, which had been the lowest in post-World War II history. …