Task force to create jobs for Pittsburgh youth

By Brittney Jackson | The Duquesne Duke

This summer, youths who are Pittsburgh residents and meet certain criteria will have a much larger selection of job opportunities due to the expansion of Pittsburgh’s Summer Youth Employment Program.

Mayor Bill Peduto issued an executive order Tuesday to assemble a task force on summer youth employment opportunities. The task force will provide recommendations and an action plan to expand the program.

Peduto’s spokeswoman Sonya Toler said the city’s Summer Youth Employment program offers jobs within the city government to youths. The criteria requires applicants to be between ages 14 and 24, live in Pittsburgh, have U.S. citizenship or legal U.S. work status and appropriate family criteria.

Toler said the city receives an average of 1,000 applications from youths each year; how-ever, only about 400 youths receive job offers. Applications are accepted and processed at Eastside Neighborhood Employment Center, Goodwill and West End Works.

“Ideally we want to provide employment for every young person that applies,” Toler said. “But we have to put together the task force to make that happen.”

Toler said the task force will be comprised of people in the community who work with the age group, although no one has been officially selected yet. The highest priority of the task force is to find quality employment for youths who apply.

In the past, Toler said student responsibilities while part of the program included mowing grass, doing clerical work and mailing. Toler said that while those jobs are important, the mayor’s office wants to hold youths to a higher standard.

Toler said the city government wants to prepare students to be “nationally competitive.”

“In the past some of those positions young people were given weren’t resumé builders,” Toler said. “We want to make this an experience that will prepare them for a better future.”

According to Toler, a variety of Pittsburgh non-profit organizations and businesses partnered with the city of Pittsburgh to provide employment to youths. In the past, some of these partners included Arbor E&T, A Second Chance, Neighborhood Learning Alliance, Student Conservation Association and Pittsburgh Public Schools.

According to the executive order, employees will continue to be paid for their summer positions. In the past, Toler said employees worked up to 30 hours per week and received minimum wage.

According to a 2013 participant survey, over 80 percent of employees in the program said they were satisfied with their jobs, learned new things, felt their work made a difference and that the overall experience was helpful. Less than 50 percent of employees said their work experience related to their career goals.

“I want to ensure that every young person in the city of Pittsburgh who wants to have both the opportunity for meaningful career development and the ability to earn a little extra money through this program,” Peduto said in the order.