Baltimore’s annual YouthWorks job program will be offered virtually this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced Wednesday.
Starting July 13 and running for five weeks, the program will offer jobs for 4,000 youth and young adults ages 14 to 21. Participants will work four hours per day, five days a week learning job readiness, career exploration and essential skills training, Young said.
“Our young people have had their worlds turned upside down due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," Young said. “Providing as many young people as possible with an opportunity to earn valuable experience, along with a paycheck, is very important for the thousands of households across our City that depend on YouthWorks.”
The program is being scaled back this year due to the pandemic. YouthWorks had received 14,000 applications by February from students hoping to take part in the program, which has grown to provide as many as 8,000 jobs to young people each summer. Half as many were offered jobs this year, although city leaders hope to add more if additional donations and partners can be found, said Jason Perkins-Cohen, director of the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development.
Perkins-Cohen said he was happy to offer the program as other cities have been forced to suspend their youth work programs during the pandemic.
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The shut down of restaurants, hotels and other service sector businesses made finding jobs for youth more difficult and also hurt the program’s revenue because some businesses were unable to make the contributions they have in previous years, he said.
About 100 of the participants will work with the University of Maryland Medical System. They will participate in professional development, as well as work on a team project in which they’ll identify key health issues in eight target ZIP codes and help develop a plan to address those issues.
Without YouthWorks this summer, thousands of young adults in the city would not have had a chance to help their families financially and build skills they could use to find a job after high school or college, said Andrew Coy, executive director of the Digital Harbor Foundation.
“You are talking about millions and millions in youth pay. The likelihood of them getting a different job is incredibly low" with tens of thousands of people unemployed in the state because of coronavirus, Coy said.
Youth don’t lose just income, he said, but the opportunity to do a job that builds confidence and a network they can draw on in the future.
“It doesn’t just affect that year, it affects every year after that,” Coy said. “Having this critical on-ramp for as many youth as possible was in jeopardy.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Liz Bowie contributed to this article.