Summer Jobs Administrators Share Best Practices, Lessons Learned
By Joan Crigger
September 28, 2009
The U.S. Conference of Mayors Workforce Development Council (WDC) held a workshop September 21 to review and critique the just-ended Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) through the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) funded the workshop.
This is the first summer since 2000 that there was direct funding for a Summer Jobs Program. Gregg Weltz, Chief of the Division of Youth Services in the Employment and Training Administration at DOL, said in his keynote address kicking off the workshop that the Summer Jobs Program was a “total victory” despite the amazing challenge given to the workforce system last February. Accomplishments of the program, according to Weltz, were putting lots of kids to work, putting money in the pockets of young people and into their families to restart the economy, and increased skills to enter the workforce for most of the youth. Weltz also commended the close to 100 workforce professionals in attendance on their creative, energetic ability to make things happen quickly, and the ability of the public workforce system to rise to the occasion and come together to put young people to work. Despite the grave concern that the program might not be successful because of the tight turn-around time and lack of experience in running summer youth programs, as of the end of July, 226,000 young people were put to work according to DOL data. Gregg said DOL expects the number to rise to 250,000 youth when the final data is computed.
Demographics from the program indicate that 50-50 male and female were served; 4l percent were African American, 41 percent White, 37 percent Hispanic; 64 percent were in school; 37 percent were out of school; 71 percent were 14-18; 29 percent were 19-24; and seven percent were 22-24.
In conclusion, Weltz said that flexibility was helpful to move quickly; quality work experiences are good; exposure to positive role models prove beneficial; combined work experience and classroom readiness is a positive experience and there is no classroom substitute for showing up and going to work.
Following Gregg ’s address, the first of two panels on Sharing What Happened included panelists Kate Lomax from Lewisburg (PA), Myria Morgan from Miami, Alan Cheng from New York City, Alice Prince from St. Louis and Cami Hanson from Spokane. With Steve Corona, President and CEO of Job Works in Ft. Wayne (IN) and long time WDC Board member and former president facilitating the session, the panelists highlighted their successes, which included Best Practices, and the most significant challenges they faced over the summer. Some of the challenges included in having many more youth to serve than money and work sites to serve them, overcoming eligibility problems because of excessive paperwork required, and inexperienced staff because of not running summer programs since 2000 except in a few cities. Some Best Practices included using check-off envelopes for youth to get all necessary paperwork and using debit cards for payroll.
The second Sharing What Happened panel included Gartha Ingram of Indianapolis, Deborah Gommert of Killeen (TX), Stacy Holland of Philadelphia and Margie Deruyter of San Diego. They concurred with the first panel that they had similar Best Practices and challenges, especially not having enough money to serve all the youth who wanted to work and eligibility issues. Many panelists in both sessions indicated that they had strong support from their mayors and local elected officials, as well as the business community.
Mala Thakur, Executive Director of the National Youth Employment Coalition (NYEC), presented results of a survey that NYEC undertook to identify experiences in ARRA Summer Program Implementation. According to Thakur, several common themes and strategies emerged including expanded programs and demand exceeding supply (a sample of six NYEC organizations reported having 40,700 applicants of which 14,515 were found eligible and 7,312 were enrolled in summer programs). According to Thakur, much of the problem in demand exceeding supply was related to income eligibility.
Thakur said that on the question relating to innovations and serving older youth, there were numerous examples of innovative programming including moving to career academies and connecting to STEM industries, career pathways and video game industry, hired older youth as team crew leaders, matched older youth with employers in their chosen careers, provided older follow-up services including career planning, transition to year-round programming, and industry'specific training. Thakur identified Philadelphia, Hartford and Baltimore as having exceptional programs.
Regarding Green Jobs, Thakur indicated that some programs were able to connect youth to green jobs, although most of the jobs were more traditional parks and recreation services including recycling and beautification. She said that some programs were able to connect older youth with jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors. Older youth in the Baltimore program who served as team leaders would be transitioned into a Green Job Corps, and intensive training in renewable energy and energy efficiency industries. San Francisco reported a successful partnership with a local solar panel installation firm for summer and year-round work experiences.
Thakur said that NYEC hoped to capture the innovations and include many of them in their recommendations on WIA Reauthorization.
During the Tablestorming session in the afternoon, Corona asked the participants to identify ten recommendations to give to Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Jane Oates, who spoke the following day at the Congressional Forum. They included keeping WIA local, increasing funding to meet the need, flexibility eligibility, permanently expanding the summer program for older youth, keeping the summer program separate from year-round programs with simpler outcomes like work readiness, and having real expectations of a six week summer program.
The closing session of the day was a panel of workforce experts to discuss Where Are We Going in Youth Programs and Funding. Speaking on the panel were Michael Gritton, Executive Director on Kentuckiana Works in Louisville and President of WDC; Clyde McQueen, President and CEO of the Full Employment Council, Inc. in Kansas City (MO) and WDC Board member; Ron Painter, Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Workforce Boards and former WDC Board member; Karen Sitnick, Director of the Baltimore City Office of Development and WDC First Vice President, and John Twomey, Executive Director of the New York Association of Training and employment Professionals, Inc.
Corona, facilitating the panel, opened the discussion by saying how refreshing it was to hear Weltz say “Congratulations to the workforce system” on rising to the challenge of putting so many young people to work in such a short time. He said that WDC needs to market and publicize this success with every Member of Congress, mayors and governors. McQueen said we need to put a face on the program so that there is a video record of the success and so that we can capitalize on it. Gritton said despite the fact there would be no money next year or very little, we should make sure mayors know how successful we have been. Painter congratulated the participants and said that when he spoke to people on Capitol Hill, he would describe the success as creating a small company with multiple work sites in a month and getting it into operation. He said the private sector could not do it. And, lastly, Twomey said that the opportunity is now for getting out the good story.