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By Lisa Loving of The Skanner News
Published: 27 February 2013

As the possibility of massive federal budget cuts threatens to tank the U.S. economy once again, the local jobs training and advocacy nonprofit Worksystems, Inc. is working to bolster local youth employment.

Worksystems is gearing up a campaign to laser-focus local business sector efforts to create 1,000 summer jobs for youth.

The project involves recruiting local businesses to pledge $2,000 to fund a youth summer job for 180 hours. Individuals can also contribute to the campaign, which Worksystems says will benefit the young people as well as the local community and the employers themselves.

"We are at historic lows for the last four to five years, each summer we have reached new lows on youth employment," says Reese Lord, a project manager at the nonprofit.

"We are bouncing at the bottom right now with about 25 percent of youth working."

Lord set out dismal statistics for youth employment: For African American males aged16 to 19, the employment rate is just 12 percent – leaving almost 90 percent with little productive to do during the summer months.

Worksystems staff also cites a recent study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which showed that nationwide, some 6.5 million young people ages 16 to 24 are out of school and unemployed – a situation jobs advocates are describing as a crisis.

According to Worksystems, Inc., more than 36,000 young people in the Portland metro area are not in school or working. Alongside those numbers, they say on average some 1,500 high school students are expected to drop out of school this year alone.

 Lord says that anyone can participate in their campaign by either helping recruit more businesses to participate, asking your own employer to pitch in, or making a financial contribution as an individual.

"Most of us adults have a memory of getting a summer job and that is just not a reality for youth today," Lord said.

Studies of retirement patterns in the local area indicate an expected 50,000 skilled jobs will open up over the next five to 10 years, and advocates worry that now is the critical time to get young people into the employment pipeline.

"We provide all the training on the front side – screening, matching and ongoing job coaching for that young person," Lord says.

"We think as a result of all those services over the last four years, we've placed 1,800 youth in our community and over 90 percent of those youth successfully completed their internship.

"Given the crisis, this can have a transformational impact on a young person," Lord says. "It's not only good for the young person; employers see a tangible return on their investment. These people come in do good work and produce results, and it's a good opportunity to improve leadership for front line employees.


"It's not just about how good it is for young people in our community, it also had some bottom line results for employers."

For more information, go to www.worksystems.org.

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