2 min read
Posted on 03.17.08
  • 2 min read
  • Posted on 03.17.08

The overall national unemployment rate among 16 to 19 year-olds is 17 percent. But, among African-American youth, it is almost double that. That’s a problem. As Chairman of the Jobs, Education, and Workforce Committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I have long supported the need for a national summer jobs program for youth.

After budget cuts reduced the number of federally funded summer jobs in St. Louis last year, the City established our own local program. But, the program was pretty small - far short of even an inadequate number of jobs. To dramatically expand the number of young people we could involve, I asked Congressman Lacy Clay to work for a federal appropriation.

He got the earmark.

This is very good news for the kids and our community.

The young people in the City’s summer jobs program are good kids who want to work and want to be part of a team. In return, we can make them feel good about themselves because they’re earning their own money.

But, this isn’t just feel-good stuff. The summer jobs program also gives businesses an opportunity to improve the competence and diversity of the City’s workforce of the future, and it provides a source of much-needed services in St. Louis hospitals, day care centers, senior centers, parks, and public and private organizations.

Introducing youth to the world of work early in their lives has some significant and very positive results. Young people who work during the summer tend to perform better in school and tend to remain in school longer. Early work experience raises earnings over a lifetime by 10 - 20 percent. And participation in a summer jobs program can help reduce criminal and high-risk behavior.

Summer youth jobs can also have a significant impact on our local economy, bringing money to more neighborhoods and helping families living in poverty supplement their household incomes.

I want to thank Congressman Clay for his efforts to bring these needed funds to our community.

My administration has already lined up 150 additional jobs for the summer, to add to the 350 already in the program. And I have asked the local business community to donate funds to support an additional 150 jobs, bringing our total in the City to 600. That would be a significant local accomplishment.

What we really need, though, is a federal summer jobs program . . .

Shown at today’s announcement of the earmark (L to R): Malik Ahmed, executive director of The Better Family Life; St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay; US Rep. William Lacy Clay, Jr; and Dr. Henry Givens, Jr., president, Harris Stowe State University.