Black Leaders Applaud White House Youth Jobs Initiative

NAACP president Ben Jealous and the National Urban League's Marc Morial stress the need for increased youth employment.

In African-American communities around the nation, tens of thousands of teenagers and young adults are pining for a job. Some want extra money to buy the latest iPad or Air Jordans. Others need a detour from the trouble that lies in wait for their idle hands on big city mean streets. Sadly, an increasing number of young people yearn to make any kind of contribution they can to help reduce their families’ financial burden.

Following the launch of the White House’s Jobs+ youth employment initiative Thursday morning, Marc Morial, head of the National Urban League and NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, shared stories by several young people about how summer jobs, internships and other similar opportunities essentially saved their lives by helping them learn invaluable new skills, getting them off of the streets and enabling them to help support their families.

Both leaders said that they are committed to working with the Obama administration to encourage businesses large and small to participate in the program.

“The reality is that we had 900,000 Black young people last year looking for jobs who couldn’t find them and we’ve got to push hard,” Jealous said.

Last year, Jamba Juice participated in a similar program, and offered 2,700 jobs. This year, in addition to 2,500 positions, the company is partnering with the Job Corps’ culinary program on a nationwide basis to provide a career path for talented young people in 26 states, said James White, the company’s CEO.

According to Danielle Gray, deputy director of the White House’s National Economic Council, several companies are expanding their existing summer and internship programs by increasing the number of opportunities and in some cases the number of cities in which they’re hiring. Other companies are responding by offering programs that help young people develop the skills they need to secure good jobs.

“Our message to American business in the private sector is going to stress that this is a call for them to do a little bit more, to do something extra in the area of employment when it comes to putting young people to work … because young people are the key to their future, our future and our nation’s future,” said Morial.

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(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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