Sunday, June 02, 2002

Program finds work for young people

250 attend event to register for 1,000 jobs

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        After holding a bonus registration session Saturday, organizers of the Youth Employment Initiative called the effort a success and said they would come close to meeting this year's target.

        Parents with their teen-agers in tow lined up outside Mayerson Academy in Corryville as early as 8:30 a.m. to register for more than 1,000 jobs. Organizers were buoyed by the turnout, which drew about 250 applicants ages 16-22. The registration, announced Friday, was held due to a shortage of applicants.

        Last year's effort to create 3,000 jobs for youth fell short by about 1,000 people.

        “This is excellent,” said Simeon Goodwin, director of the program as he surveyed a packed room. “We think we are going to be in a very good position and will come very close to meeting our 1,000-person target.”

        Mr. Goodwin said it wasn't a disappointment that fewer workers than jobs available had signed up. The effort still is new, and organizers are learning, he said.

        A second element of the program, subsidized jobs in the non-profit sector for 14- and 15-year-olds, has attracted more than enough applicants to fill 1,200 positions available, Mr. Goodwin said. Those jobs are being funded by the city, foundations and others.

        The initiative is an effort among city, business and civic agencies. The jobs begin on or around June 10. The program is a cornerstone of the city's response to last year's riots.

        Organizers hope to raise more than $2 million for this year's program. The city is providing $300,000, while business and community leaders have pledged more than $350,000.

        Those who registered for work aren't necessarily guaranteed jobs. First, they must attend a four-hour job-readiness session next Saturday that covers how to behave and dress during an interview, how to ask, communicate and perform on the job, among other issues.

        Many parents sat Saturday at tables with their children, helping them fill out registration forms requiring them to list their skills and sign up for areas in which they wanted to work. Options ranged from clerical and construction to food service and cashier.

        “Why don't you check retail?” Zelda Johnson of Price Hill suggested to her daughter, Jamelda Johnson, 16.

        “What's that?” the Hughes High School sophomore asked.

        “Working with clothes,” her mother told her. “Check customer service, too. You can do that. You can answer the phone.”

        How much the jobs paid wasn't as big a concern to most students as was finding transportation to and from work. Many said that was their biggest obstacle.

        Parents were hopeful the program would instill a work ethic and responsibility in their teens.

        “This gives kids hope and makes them feel they are doing something with their lives,” said Debra Forte-Muhammad of Bond Hill as she watched her son, Malik, 16, complete an application. “They need to know they can contribute to society and are important.”


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