The job landscape for teenagers and young adults under 24 has been full of bumps for some time now. Young African-Americans have found it nearly impossible to find work. Just take a look at the numbers: from March 2010 to March 2011, the unemployment rate for African-Americans aged 16 to 19 has skyrocketed from 39.3 percent to 42.1 percent.
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis wants to help and has issued a challenge to the nation’s mayors, nonprofits, major corporations and other organizations to work with the department to create and fill 100,000 jobs for low-income people aged 16 to 24. Information about the initiative and actual job opportunities can be found here.
In a Wednesday conference call, Solis said that last July, the month when employment for this age group usually peaks, their unemployment rate was 19.1 percent—the highest July since 1948—leaving more than 4 million young people out of work.
“The numbers were even more stunning for youth of color, with unemployment rates of 33.4 percent for African-American youth,” she said. For the past two years, the American Recovery Act provided funding for summer jobs, but that's gone, she added.
So far, 12 companies and organizations around the nation have joined the effort and are offering a broad range of opportunities, from forest service work for youth and adults to internships for undergraduate and graduate students at Wells Fargo, many of which could turn into jobs upon graduation.
Some of their representatives who participated in the conference call said they hope that summer opportunities could turn into lifelong careers.
Betty Amend, vice president for human resources for UPS, said she plans to use the Labor Department initiative as a recruiting tool and hopes to find employees who will stay on and build a career with the company. UPS is currently offering 1,500 jobs at 71 locations in 35 states. Most are entry-level, part-time positions but could include some benefits. In some locations, part-timers can qualify for up to $3,000 per year for educational benefits in addition to their wages if they stay on.
“I started as a summer person 27 years ago and here I am vice president of human resources,” Amend said. “There are many, many stories like that among our employees.”
(Photo: Rouelle Umali /Landov)