"He just really couldn't find a job," she said, "and his family just really needed the support that he could bring."

Johnson and other student leaders with The Intersection, a Baltimore youth leadership organization, have zeroed in on the problem with Urban Alliance, a job training and internship group for youth. They've just launched a campaign to get young Baltimore residents ready for work and find employers willing to hire them.

Their goal is 235 youth jobs — one for every person killed in the city last year.

The two issues are inextricably linked, Intersection leaders say. That's what they heard last year when asking more than 400 city residents for ways to reduce violence.

"What people overwhelming said is this problem, first and foremost, is about a lack of youth opportunities and is about a lack of youth employment," said Zeke Cohen, executive director of The Intersection. "We see youth unemployment as a major, major problem facing Baltimore and Maryland."

The city has two Youth Opportunity centers that help young workers prepare for jobs, obtain subsidized internships and find work. Though federal support dried up years ago for summer job programs, the city continues to operate its annual YouthWorks effort — patching together city, state, foundation and donated funds to put about 5,000 14- to 21-year-olds in paid positions.

But the scale of the need is daunting. Over 11,000 youths have applied for this summer's program and more would be eligible, said Karen Sitnick, director of the Mayor's Office of Employment Development in Baltimore.

To increase the pool of available positions, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake launched the Hire One Youth campaign two years ago to encourage businesses to bring on at least one young worker each summer through YouthWorks.

"There's 13,000 companies in the city of Baltimore," Sitnick said. "If everyone would just hire one youth … it would certainly make a big dent."

Christopher Parker, 20, credits his six summers in YouthWorks — five at Mercy Medical Center — for the 30-hour-a-week job he started last Monday at the Baltimore hospital.

Mercy, which has had positive experiences with its YouthWorks participants, was happy to bring him back permanently, said Mark Bailey, the hospital's director of community engagement and volunteer programs.

Parker didn't have luck elsewhere. He wants to go to college and said he couldn't find much that would give him flexibility to attend classes.

"I filled out applications for a lot of places, a lot of places, and all of them said the same thing: Basically they were looking for somebody else," said Parker, a Northeast Baltimore resident. "I'm just like, 'Wow, it's hard for people our age to find jobs.' "

Part-time work is common in some fields, like retail. But Bailey said that when he was in college, there seemed to be more such opportunities at hospitals, law firms and other places with a career ladder — a way in for students.

Teens in 2000 worked for a wide variety of employers, from utilities to banks, Sum said. Now they're largely confined to jobs at restaurants, retailers and lower-level service providers.

And expectations for entry-level jobs keep rising.

Knighten, who lives in Reservoir Hill, graduated from Western High School in 2011. She has three semesters of college under her belt and intends to go back in the fall.

For now, she's looking for a customer-service job or something similar. She applied for a job as a 911 operator too. Meanwhile, she plans to seek some sort of medical certification. She's seeing in the job postings that her education so far is often not enough.

"To get a job right now without a certification is kind of hard," she said.

That pressure is felt up the educational ladder.

Greenhouse, who interned at a museum and an archaeology lab, said that experience and the bachelor's degree she's nearly earned seem insufficient for even entry-level work in her field, with people competing for too few jobs.

Eli Hyman, 23, who graduated in December with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, said the positions he's seeing call for so many specific skills that he can't imagine what new graduate has them.

"My perception is it's really more of an unwillingness to hire entry-level employees, just generally," he said.

Leonard J. Howie III, Maryland's labor secretary, said the network of state and local agencies that focus on workforce issues are always encouraging employers to hire young workers. It's good for those workers, of course, but, he said, there's a benefit to companies, too.

"The sooner they can get them in … they're more likely to build employees who will stick around," Howie said.

jhopkins@baltsun.com

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