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Youth Unemployment, Cuts In Training Cause Youth to Self-Motivate

Shevry Lassiter | 10/12/2011, 12:49 p.m.

Youth employment and development training programs have experienced massive funding cuts throughout the District of Columbia resulting in high numbers of unemployed youths.

A paper entitled, "Strengthening Education and Career Pathways for D.C. Youth," written by Martha Ross, a Fellow at The Brookings Institution, reports that 32 percent of low-income youth without college degrees are not working, not in school, and the unemployment rate among 16-19 year olds in the District reached almost 50 percent in 2009.

Studies show youths employed as teenagers have a better chance of having a successful and productive future career. They are able to gain job experience, a sense of responsibility, and money management skills while building their resumes.

"Choices lead to decisions which lead to consequences," said Marion Speight. "It's all about the choices you make. The programs may not be here, but so what, motivate your own self. Go on the Internet for something useful, and find a program that will help you instead of using it just for Facebook."

Speight, 27, a recreational therapist, hires recreational activity leaders and drivers as part of her administrative role. This past summer she had five positions available. She hired three teen workers and brought back two who had worked with her previously.

She likes to see youths take initiative as independent thinkers and go-getters. When Speight calls prospective employees, she sometimes finds that they are unaware of the position. She said this lets her know that the youth's parents or some other adult actually filled out the application.

"Becoming a volunteer is the number one start to youth employment," Speight said. "Volunteer and someone might find that you did a dynamite job and create a position for you. It's all about how you communicate with others, your values as a person, and self-determination."

Employers want to know that you are willing to do a great job and work along well with other staff members, she added.

As the unemployment rate for our youth reaches landmark numbers, Speight highlights a few important areas that may set a potential youth applicant apart from the rest. According to Speight:

The applicant should be neat and professional in appearance.

Applicants should not show up to an interview dressed like they are going to be hanging out with friends regardless of the position.

Tattoos and piercings are not important to the employer unless they are uncovered.

The applicant should be able to use complete sentences without fillers such as 'uhs, ahms and you-knows.' Although superb grammar is not a requirement, youths should be able to have an intelligent conversation

Go into an interview knowing that references are always contacted. Using a family member as a reference is frowned upon.

Speight said having a teacher as a reference is an advantage since employers need to know the applicant is respectful to those in authority in school and at home. If it's not the desired job, apply anyway and continue seeking other jobs until the desired position is obtained.

The internet can be a useful tool to show youths how to prepare resumes and teach interviewing skills, but keep in mind that employers check Facebook pages to see what type of pictures the applicant may have posted, the type of language they use, who the applicant has as friends.