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Think summer jobs now Can't wait: Private companies should make a commitment to employ teen-agers.


WITH A WINTER that has set records for cold and snow not quite over, most thoughts of summer are distant. But the city can't wait until it gets hot to prepare for the thousands of teen-agers who will be looking for summer jobs.

Baltimore was well into spring last year and still didn't know what federal money might be available for summer jobs. That's not a problem this year. Congress made sure last July that there would be no federal funds for summer jobs in 1996. Being optimistic, that means there's no need to delay a strategy to keep as many teens as possible off the streets.

Toward that end, a week ago the city kicked off what it is calling Youthworks '96, an effort it hopes will provide 3,200 summer jobs for teen-agers this summer. Baltimore filled 4,000 summer jobs last year, but that was after finally receiving $4 million in federal funds.

To offset that loss, the city will need even more help from the private sector this summer to put teen-agers to work. It wants businesses to provide 1,000 jobs, with 500 provided by city agencies, 500 by foundations, 400 by state agencies, 300 by hospitals, 300 by churches and 200 by other non-profit organizations.

It will cost about $650 per job to employ a young person for five to six weeks. Dan Whelan, president of Bell Atlantic-Maryland, is heading the private sector effort to provide jobs. Any business that has work for teen-agers or can provide a tax-deductible donation to pay the salary of a teen assigned to work at a non-profit agency should telephone 396-JOBS.

At its peak, the summer jobs program provided employment for 7,000 teen-agers in Baltimore. But that was after riots in Los Angeles in 1992, when Congress decided to do more for America's youth. The need has not lessened.

Even when 7,000 teens were put to work, many more thousands wanted summer jobs. That work experience doesn't just keep young people out of trouble; it gives them an introduction into what it means to be a contributing member of society. The Mayor's Office of Employment Development is already working hard to find summer jobs. It needs help.

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