District Youth Go Online to Apply for Jobs

Norma Porter Anthony | 3/31/2010, 1:40 p.m.

Mayor€s Summer Youth Program in Demand

As temperatures rise and the days get longer, young people in the District have decided to get a head start and find a job, during one of the toughest economic times in history since the Great Depression.

More than 2,000 of the District€s youth have registered online for job assignments through the 2010 Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) since Mayor Adrian Fenty and Joseph P. Walsh, the director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services (DOES), formally announced the start of the program, Tue., March 2.
€This summer thousands of youth will be relying on us to provide them with meaningful summer work experiences,€ Fenty said.

€Inspired by last year€s record breaking participation, we are gearing up for an exciting summer that will challenge youth across the District and lay the foundation for their professional achievement for years to come.€

The SYEP employed 21,000 young people between the ages of 14-21 last year. The District government spent $36 million to fund the program. But, some criticized the Mayor€s Conservation Corps -- the team of young people responsible for cleaning the streets €" and referred to them as being €unproductive.€
But that hasn€t been the only complaint.

Over the past two years, the summer employment program has experienced problems that caused eyebrows to furrow. Two years ago, the program exceeded its budget by $34 million. In addition to overspending, the program included individuals as old as 50 on the rolls. The confusion continued over work assignment locations and youth discovered that their salaries, distributed through a debit-card system, was late or non-existent.

Last summer, the SYEP placed youth in jobs with federal government agencies in locations as far away as Springfield, Va. Many young people accompanied by their parents and guardians testified about their dissatisfaction with the program during a D.C. Council hearing in June.

Dyonicia Brown, a spokesperson for DOES, said that while the SYEP was scrutinized last summer, young people benefitted from a variety of assignments in local and federal government along with private sector jobs.

€The program has had some amazing things happen in 2009,€ Brown said.

€We find that youth who have jobs when they€re young have more career paths to choose from when they€re older,€ she said.
Walsh reiterated Brown€s comments.

€Youth unemployment is at an all time high throughout the nation, but we know that when a person has work experience, when they are young, they are much more likely to gain employment when they are adults,€ Walsh said.

€SYEP continues to be critical to our young people€s success and it changes tens of thousands of lives for the better. Our youth not only gain valuable work experience, but they are also re-investing in their communities through service at local worksites.€

Corey Harris, 20, knows first-hand the benefits of summer employment.

Harris, a graduate of Luke C. Moore Academy in Northeast, said that he has worked in the District€s SYEP for the past two summers. His first assignment in 2008 with Xerox Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, enhanced his resume.

Last summer, Harris, a Northeast resident, said that he worked with the Metropolitan Police Department. He spent his days at Cardozo Senior High School in Northwest and helped the police with their summer program at the culturally diverse school in Columbia Heights.

Without the SYEP, he wouldn€t have much work experience. Thanks to SYEP, he has solid work experience under his belt.

€It€s great job training so when you step into the real world you will know what to do and how to go about things,€ Harris said.

€I have learned time management, how to be successful and how to dress appropriately for the job that I want rather than the job that I have.€

Harris€ previous experience with the SYEP landed him a position at DOES through the young adult internship program. He greets visitors and performs clerical tasks at the agency€s Northeast office.

When Harris€ internship ends in May, he plans to continue through the SYEP.

While the program isn€t perfect, Harris said, it€s mandatory because it provides youth with an alternative.

€The Summer Youth Employment Program gives young people something to do instead of getting into trouble,€ he said.

€It€s especially important for the younger kids because they see older people doing bad things and decide to follow in their foot steps.€ WI