That's why we give a big thumbs-up to state Sen. Vincent Hughes' attempt to create a constructive pathway for more kids to get jobs.
Hughes is about to introduce a Youth Empowerment Services (YES) bill that would create of statewide fund of $100 million. This money would help create youth summer and year-round employment and internships.
Hughes' effort will target workforce-investment boards around the state, and includes Philadelphia Youth Network's WorkReady program.
The Daily News and this page makes annual appeals on behalf of WorkReady for employers to step up to the plate and provide internships for young people. Last year, WorkReady lined up more than 7,000 summer internships, giving young people valuable experience in the workplace, the chance to be mentored, and an important way to stay connected.
Unfortunately, a waiting list of 3,000 kids never got the chance at these opportunities.
Given the speed at which Harrisburg works, the Hughes initiative isn't likely to help in this summer's WorkReady recruitment, which has already begun. (Interested companies can visit www.workreadyphila.com to sign up or get more information).
And this year's internship recruitment has a new set of challenges. When the state recently raised the minimum wage, the money available to fund the internships was spread much thinner. The Youth Network is going to have to work that much harder to make up the difference.
The Hughes bill will help with that, by providing a 2-to-1 match for every dollar that employers contribute to the program. It will also provide additional anti-violence programs.
It's not hard to connect the dots between lack of job opportunities for young people and the dead-end, often violent paths that they resort to.
The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce has seen this connection, too, and has taken a leadership role in trying to turn this around. They are backing a bill that would provide tax credits to employers who provide jobs to youth who are at or below the 150 percent poverty level.
This bill was introduced last year by Reps. John Taylor and Josh Shapiro; we urge the Legislature to get moving on this.
Giving a young person a summer job can have an extraordinary impact on his or her life. This employment helps the city, too, by creating a larger pool of experienced and skilled workers. It's right that the state step in to encourage this effort, but it's critical that the private sector do its part.
WorkReady's goal for this summer is 10,000 internships. Think of that as 10,000 kids who suddenly have options and potential, and who can see a way of life that doesn't need guns or violence to sustain it.
That's a huge return on a small investment. *