Baltimore a leader in youth summer jobs

On behalf of the Mayor's Office of Employment Development, I am pleased to share the news that thousands of Baltimore youth will be working in productive summer jobs through our YouthWorks program this year.

Thanks to the collective efforts of many committed partners from local and state government, businesses, foundations, community organizations and individual citizens, we expect that close to 5,000 young people 14-to-21 years of age will work in a variety of job settings where they will develop skills to become effective employees and build lasting careers. Many YouthWorks worksites are in high growth industries, such as hospitality and tourism, health care and information technology. A high percentage of YouthWorks participants spend the summer gaining business and office skills, while others help keep Baltimore's parks, playgrounds and open spaces clean. They will beautify city neighborhoods by participating in community recycling activities and graffiti removal and support the operations of our community libraries, recreation centers, summer camps and senior centers.

Despite the expiration of vital federal funding provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that supported thousands of summer job placements in 2009 and 2010, YouthWorks will still employ approximately the same number of young people who worked last year — 5,100. This accomplishment is no small feat, as cities all over the country are dramatically cutting back the numbers of summer jobs for youth. But thanks in large part to funding in excess of $1.6 million from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the Baltimore City Council, the annual $1 million in funding to serve those receiving public assistance and foster care youth, and the unprecedented $1.13 million provided from Gov. Martin O'Malley's supplemental budget, the number of Baltimore's teens working this summer will be proportionally higher than most other cities.

That is not to say that more young people shouldn't be given the opportunity to work. At the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting to be held in Baltimore this week, Mayor Rawlings-Blake will support a resolution highlighting the U.S. Department of Labor's efforts to increase summer employment for youth and the vital role the corporate community plays in creating summer job opportunities. Perhaps the strongest endorsement for the value of Baltimore's YouthWorks program is the financial support it receives from area businesses and philanthropic organizations — many of which are repeat contributors. In fact, nearly 90 percent of the organizations that have contributed to the 2011 campaign do so year after year. Large corporations like Verizon and Legg Mason have been strong contributors for several years, and The Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation has provided summer jobs grants for 18 years.

Private sector employers not only make monetary contributions, many also employ hundreds of summer youth on their company payrolls. For more than 30 years, Martin's Caterers has hired between 75 and 200 youth each summer as production workers preparing breakfasts and lunches for Baltimore's Summer Feeding Program. The National Aquarium has also been a valued partner, hiring about 20 YouthWorks participants for each of the past three years, and Johns Hopkins Health System and Johns Hopkins University will hire more than 200 again this summer.

The YouthWorks program is scheduled to begin on June 27 and continue for six weeks. While this year more than 6,000 young people successfully registered for YouthWorks, current funding is not adequate to offer jobs to all of them. However, there is still time for businesses, foundations, the faith-based community, and all interested individuals to join us in supporting YouthWorks by supplying job opportunities and making donations. The total cost to support each summer job is $1,200.

Tax-deductible contributions may be sent to: Baltimore City Foundation/YouthWorks, c/o Mayor's Office of Employment Development, 101 W. 24th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.

Karen Sitnick, Baltimore

The writer is director of the Mayor's Office of Employment Development.

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