White House Announces New Youth Jobs Initiative

The administration hopes to ultimately provide 250,000 employment opportunities.

Posted: 01/05/2012 12:00 AM EST

Ever since recession took hold of the nation’s economy, those on the bottom rung of Generation Y are starting to feel more like Generation Jobless. After-school gigs at fast food joints and in malls are no longer ubiquitous and summer jobs are becoming increasingly more difficult to find.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 48.8 percent of young people between the ages of 16 and 24 had a job last July, a peak month for summer youth employment, which was a steep decline from the 59.2 percent and 63.3 percent who were employed five and ten years ago, respectively. It was worse for African-Americans, of whom only 34.6 percent had a job last July.


On Thursday the White House will announce a new initiative called Summer Jobs+, which it says is a “call to action” for businesses, nonprofits and government agencies to provide summer and year-round employment opportunities for low-income and disconnected youth.


Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, said that a similar pubic-private effort yielded more than 80,000 jobs last summer. So far the administration has secured commitments to provide 180,000 summer youth work opportunities from broad range of companies, including Jamba Juice, CVS Caremark, Wells Fargo, Gap Inc. and UPS. Federal agencies such as Agriculture, Health and Human Services and the Interior also are participating in the effort.


“This includes paid positions, internships, mentoring relationships and job shadowing programs,” Solis said, adding that the ultimate goal is to provide 250,000 opportunities.


In the next couple of months, the administration will launch the Summer Jobs+ Bank, a one-stop, online search tool that will provide access to job postings from participating employers.


President Obama included a measure to create summer and year-round youth employment in the American Jobs Act as part of the Pathways Back to Work fund, which Congress failed to pass. Summer Jobs+ is another part of his “We Can’t Wait” campaign to pass components of the bill through a series of executive actions.


“The environment here in Washington isn’t always conducive to supporting the kinds of efforts that the president asked for to help create summer youth employment.... We can still have that conversation, but we’re not going to wait,” Solis said. “We’re putting this out for public consumption and hope to challenge those good employers that know this is the best investment that they can make in the coming year to build our economy [and] to put young minds to work.”


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(Photo: UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg/Landov)

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