One thousand people have already submitted applications to participate in the city's youth summer jobs programs — twice as many as this time last year, underscoring the demand and need for employment, the director of the mayor's office of employment development said Wednesday.
"It's shocking," director Jason Perkins-Cohen said. "It sends a really loud signal."
Perkins-Cohen spoke at a breakfast hosted Wednesday by the Greater Baltimore Committee and Associated Black Charities, as the organizations issued a reportwith recommendations for ways to strengthen career pathways in science and technology fields for people without college degrees.
Employers at the breakfast said many workers need training in basic math as well as "life skills" to advance in STEM positions. At Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., for example, about two-thirds of applicants fail a qualifying math exam, said economist Chris Seals of Field Guide Consulting, who worked on the report.
Job training programs are one response, but they are often limited in scope.
Last summer, the city placed about 8,000 people ages 14 to 21 in jobs after a surge of support in the aftermath of the April rioting. The city's two programs, YouthWorks and Hire One Youth, originally could accommodate only 5,000 applicants.
This year's registration period for the YouthWorks program opened Monday. The deadline to apply for the summer program is in March.
Perkins-Cohen said he is worried that if demand keeps up, the city will not be able to find jobs for everyone who applies, as it did last year.
"Now we need the community to rise up. We need employers to meet that challenge," he said.
Andy Bertamini, regional president of Wells Fargo and chairman of the Baltimore Workforce Investment Board, said employers need to stop thinking of accepting people through programs like YouthWorks as "charity cases."
"We have to change the perception," he said. "These are not charity cases. These are people with skills who want to work."