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Ten thousand jobs for city youth by the start of the summer: That’s what Mayor Michael Nutter asked local businesses, nonprofits and philanthropic organizations to create when he announced the city’s 2015 Summer Jobs Challenge on Feb. 23. The weather’s getting warmer and kids are looking for some extra summer cash, but there’s been little talk of the program’s success rate since the announcement.
A little bit of background
Upon launching the jobs challenge, Nutter joined with the Philadelphia Youth Network, a managing partner of WorkReady Philadelphia, which provides enrichment programs to the city’s underserved youth in order to make them workforce ready. WorkReady published a report that showed nearly 8,200 summer job opportunities were filled with about 1,100 companies in summer 2014 with 88 percent of the participants (ages 13–19+) saying they were confident in their ability to obtain a job after their experience. But even with these promising numbers, unemployment (especially among city youth) has been a growing concern for the city.
By the numbers
In a February 2015 report by the Center for Workforce Information and Analysis of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, among its surrounding counties, has the highest unemployment rate (7.4 percent); only a 1.3 percent decrease from February 2014. Nutter has been the only mayor since Wilson Goode (1984–1991) to see an increase in the city’s population by 3.6 percent, per a report released by the Nutter Administration in January 2015. Though seen as a positive, the population growth makes employing the nearly 53,500 additional residents all that more difficult.
In addition to the city’s growing population, another trend has been on the rise: high school dropout rates. An investigative report by 6ABC in June 2014 showed that one in 10 Philadelphia students are dropping out of the city’s public schools in one academic year. And where are they going? Many end up on the streets and find that obtaining a job without any work experience is easier said than done. The dropout rate has been increasing in the city, according to Philadelphia School District records. From 2009 to 2012, the dropout rate more than doubled from 4.09 percent to 8.96 percent. This year, under the Summer Jobs Challenge, PYN is making it a point to get more businesses involved in employing the city’s youth and to get them experiences in the workplace. The program’s main demographic are young adults in the city (roughly 13– to 21-year-olds) and come from a range of economic backgrounds and educations from high school dropouts to those that have recently graduated high school and into college. The minimum requirement to apply to the program is simple: You have to be a Philadelphia resident.
Combating the problem
It’s a no-brainer that the students who are presented with the opportunities to become part of the workforce in high school are better off in terms of future earnings and personal connections later on in their field. Stephanie Gambone, executive vice president for PYN, told Billy Penn that this isn’t the first time the organization has partnered with the mayor in an effort to expose the city youth to jobs. Gambone said that partnership with Nutter started when he took office back in 2008 and said that he has always been an advocate for job creation, especially among Philly’s youth.
“The need is there,” Gambone said of those seeking to find a summer job. “Everybody wants to work for the experience and get the opportunity to get into the workforce.”
Gambone explained that last year, WorkReady was responsible for contributing the nearly 8,200 youth jobs to the city. Though WorkReady made all the applicants ready for the workplace, it was PYN’s job to work with the businesses like Bank of America, PECO and Cancer Treatment Centers of America, who each hired 25 to 99 paid interns last year. Nearly 80 percent of the program’s funding comes from the public sector — like the city government and the school district — and the remaining 20 percent of funding comes from private city businesses and philanthropies. Gambone said that regardless of whether a student gets a summer job or an internship, they receive compensation or get paid $7.25 an hour.
Where the program stands now
When asked to comment on the number of youth jobs that have been filled, Gambone said that nearly $15 million was needed last year to provide the 8,195 jobs and in order to serve just as many students this summer, if not more, the city still needs about $3.5 million from both public and private investors to fill that gap. In order to provide wages to the youth and provide training for them and the work sites, “it typically costs that amount to serve that number of young people,” she said. “If we see more [people], that would be phenomenal.”
When asked specifically how many jobs the city has lined up so far this summer, and how much money the program already has, Gambone would only say the program still needs $3.5 million more to reach its goal. Gambone said that the exact number of participants is still to be determined at this time but she expects to have more concrete numbers of participants come June.