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Federal Funding Stimulates Summer Jobs Program

By Ian Lovett, 7/22/2010

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Last week, the Hire LA’s Youth program received $25 million in federal stimulus funds to help place youth ages 14 to 24 in paid summer internships during July and August. The stimulus funds will help the program find jobs for 10,000 young people in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hailed the summer jobs program as a boon to the local economy.

“We are providing employment opportunities and skills training for over 10,000 youth this summer — that’s 10,000 young people who will be given summer jobs and an opportunity towards a lifetime of employment,” Villaraigosa said. “Hire LA’s Youth is creating fulfilling summer employment for our youth in the short-term and establishing the building blocks for the long-term success of our local economy.”

Hire LA’s Youth was founded six years ago in response to a City of Los Angeles report that estimated 100,000 young adults in the region were out of school and out of work.

Alma Salazar, vice president of education and workforce development for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, said when the program began, 7,000 young people were being placed in jobs every year. By last year, the program had grown to place 15,000 young people in summer jobs. This year, numbers are down somewhat due to the recession.

“Young adults with early positive work experiences are more likely to stay in school and continue to work,” Salazar said. “We wanted to help provide those positive work experiences, and to convince businesses to give them entry level employment opportunities.”

Many local businesses signed on to the program, including Kaiser Permanente, which now offers summer internships to more than 400 young people each summer.

Cathy McIntire, director of volunteer services at Kaiser Permanente, helped establish the hospital’s youth program.

“The kids at this program, some of them are struggling to get through school, some had hard lives and hard circumstances,” McIntire said. “They don’t think it’s possible to go to college or obtain a job at a hospital. We want to show them that nothing can stop them so that when they leave here, they have the tools to apply for grants and scholarships, and they don’t say that money is the reason they can’t go to school.”

Stephanie De La Cruz, 18, is now in her second summer interning at Kaiser. She plans to go to college next year, though she isn’t sure where, and to continue to work in healthcare.

“I got a job offer because I used to live at a group home called St. Anne’s,” De La Cruz said. “I had a workforce development teacher who encouraged me to apply for the youth program at Kaiser.  I didn’t think I’d want to work at a hospital, but Kaiser is a really great place to work. Benefits are great, and of course I’d want to help people as well. I still don’t know what exactly I want to do, but I want to work in healthcare. Healthcare is always in demand, you’re always going to find a good job.”

The federal stimulus money is earmarked to provide summer jobs for young peoples ages 14 to 19 whose families receive general relief or food stamps.

However, the demand for permanent jobs has also grown during the last several years.

Amanda Gonzalez, program manager for University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) OneSource, which provides job readiness training for young people before they are placed with employers like Kaiser, said demand has grown markedly among youth ages 18 to 24 since the recession began.

“We do get a lot of older youth who are having trouble looking for jobs, and we do have difficulty finding them jobs,” Gonzalez said. “Often, their skill levels are not where they need to be to qualify for those jobs. We offer experience internships like the summer internships, and we send them to workshops. But we haven’t had a lot of success finding permanent jobs for them. We’ve found about 80 jobs for maybe 200 older youth who have come to us this year. I think it’s because the market is so competitive right now, even entry level jobs are looking for a high school diploma or GED.”

Gonzalez said internship and summer employment programs are more effective with younger people, who are often encouraged by their work experience to stay in school.

“We like to focus on education,” Gonzalez said.

Though UCLA OneSource has already filled its 500 summer job placements from the stimulus program, many other summer job placements remain open for young adults who qualify. For more information, visit www.layouthatwork.org.

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