Funding down for teens seeking summer employment

Posted: January 23, 2014

Taesha White, 23, stood at the lectern at Tuesday's news conference, Exhibit A to help officials persuade employers to hire teenagers for summer jobs through the WorkReady Philadelphia program.

A graduate of West Catholic High School, White finished college, landed a good-paying and satisfying job at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, and mentored a young WorkReady teenage employee at the hospital last summer.

"It was awesome to be in a position to give back to a person who was in my position seven years ago," White said. She stays in touch with her student, who is now in college.

Tough day for a summer jobs news conference Tuesday, with the snow falling hard in a swirling cloud and City Hall evacuated by the fire department.

But then it's also tough to be a teenager looking for work.

Nationally, 35.5 percent of African American teenagers, aged 16 to 19, who wanted to work were unemployed in December, just about double the 18 percent unemployment rate for white teenagers. Factor in how many became discouraged and quit looking and the numbers become higher.

And it also looks like it'll be a tough year to raise the money to employ 7,600 - the number of young people who got jobs last year through the program. Several U.S. Department of Labor grants have come to an end. Some philanthropic organizations have not yet stepped up to renew.

Last year, however, was a record year for business involvement, with the number of businesses increasing from 1,100 to 1,600. Numbers for this year are still unknown.

At this point, organizers say, there's enough money and commitments to employ 4,000 teens - the lowest number served since the program began in 2003.

Last year, at this time, there was enough money for 5,000, with Mayor Nutter making many personal appeals to bring the number up to 7,600. Still, 18,000 applied for the program, meaning that 10,400 didn't get jobs.

It costs $1,700 per job per participant, ages 14 to 21. A little over half of that goes to the students in wages for 20 hours of work a week for six weeks. The rest covers pre-job screening, wages, liability insurance, payroll services, and training for employers as well as weekly mentoring and career preparation sessions for the teens.

The students work at area businesses, government offices, and nonprofits that pay the Philadelphia Youth Network, which serves as the official employer.

Thomas Woodward, market president of Bank of America-Pennsylvania, said his bank sponsors 45 teenagers.

In prepared remarks, he noted that employees who work with the young people benefit by gaining supervisory experience and often find themselves experiencing renewed enthusiasm for their own work.

About 55 employers have signed up this year. They include the Philadelphia Council of the AFL-CIO, Comcast, Fox Rothschild, Drexel University, Independence Blue Cross, and the City of Philadelphia.



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