New youth jobs program hailed
on April 14, 2010
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and a handful of city leaders praised about 20 local youths in front of City Hall on April 9.
It was a small, understated presentation, but for many of the young people on hand it was a big part of their lives.
The ceremony was for the Richmond Youth Corps, a new city jobs program that provides part-time work for Richmond residents ages 17-24.
One youth gushed that he’d “never met a mayor before.”
“I just want to thank everybody for this opportunity, it has helped me out a lot to get this experience,” said Peter Gray, who works in the Parks Department, while beaming behind a podium.
Since its launch last year with funds from the Mayor’s Office and public and private grants, more than 40 people have enrolled in a five-month paid internship program.
Another 40-50 workers are expected to be hired during the next cycle this Fall.
Local youths work in public and private settings, including the City Attorney’s office and local television station KCRT, generally for about 10 hours per week at $10 per hour.
“We need this program to expand and grow. Our young people are craving greater direction and support from us,” McLaughlin said. “These young people need to know they are part of something really big here in Richmond.”
The jobs program joins a consortium of other city-backed programs in the city, including Richmond Build, Youth Build and Solar Richmond.
DeAndre Young, 18, said the program opened his eyes to a world beyond his neighborhood. He has worked with painters and carpenters at a local carpentry shop, and during this time has developed greater ambitions.
“With the carpenters, I went to a fire station, and we fixed the carpet for them,” Young said. “I saw what they do day-to-day, and I love it. It would be great to be a part of that.”
McLaughlin said she hopes to continue to expand on the concept.
“My whole emphasis has been that we need to offer year-round jobs for our youth,” she said.
The economic downturn has hit teens and young workers particularly hard. According to a study released in January by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, less than 27 percent of working-age teenagers held jobs at the end of last year. That number is down from 45 percent in 2000.
According to the city, Richmond’s unemployment rate was 15.1 percent in February 2009 — nearly double the U.S. rate of 8.9 percent for the same period, and up from 10.2 percent in 2008.
To see Northeastern University’s teenage jobs study, click here
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