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Friday, Jul 19, 2024

Funding Boost for Youth Employment

Preparing local youth for the workforce is a large piece of the economic recovery formula set forth by the federal government, and stimulus dollars are already boosting local youth employment programs to levels not seen in years. Smaller organizations like the Glendale Youth Alliance, which provide job seeking skills and employment preparedness training for low-income youth ages 14-24, are now able to significantly expand their services, and get more local kids into summer and entry level jobs than ever before. “This will be the biggest program in the history of the organization,” said Corina Gregorian, Program Supervisor for the GYA, a non profit organization that received $400,000 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), better known as the stimulus package. For fiscal year 09-10, which started July 1, the funds will allow GYA to help 150 more youth than last year, bringing the number up to 650, more than double the number of youth served in FY 07-08. “ARRA funds have certainly given youth employment programs a boost,” said Don Nakamoto Executive Director of the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board, which represents the cities of Burbank, Glendale and La Canada Flintridge. The Verdugo WIB received $3 million in stimulus funds over two years, part of which will go towards helping 270 kids land summer jobs this year between July 1 and September 30, through contracts with organizations like GYA. “Those are 270 youth we would not have been able to help otherwise [without ARRA funds],” he said. Stimulus dollars are also allowing the Verdugo WIB to contract with another organization, Goodwill Industries, for the first time this year to offer additional services to about 50 youth. Workforce Investment Boards, which oversee one-stop centers that provide employment and training services to the community, were established in 2000 by the federal Workforce Investment Act to develop local policies and to oversee federal and state allocations of workforce funds. WIBs all across the nation are benefiting from the $787 billion economic stimulus package approved by the Obama administration, which allocates some $4 billion dollars in Workforce Investment Act Adult, Dislocated Worker, and Youth funding. “Stimulus funds are helping jumpstart the economy and there’s certainly more appreciation for summer and youth jobs than we’ve seen in many years and in the previous administration,” said David Eder, Senior Management Analyst for Los Angeles Workforce Investment Board. The LA WIB, which has three Youth Centers in the Valley and relies on 15 providers to run summer youth employment programs in the Valley area, received $20.3 million in ARRA funding, part of which will go towards placing approximately 1,600 youths in jobs this summer. Thousands of jobs “It is a huge boost to this year’s program. The ARRA funding will create thousands of jobs,” added Laura Cant & #250;, Assistant Director Youth Opportunity System for LA WIB. “Still not enough to meet the need, but it will provide many more youth with an opportunity to work this summer.” A total of 8,500 youth employment jobs will be funded by ARRA Funds and the City’s General Fund this year through the LA WIB, more than double the number last year. Under the umbrella of HIRE LA’s Youth campaign, the City of Los Angeles and LA WIB have set the goal of placing more than 16,500 youth in paid positions by June 30, 2010- an unprecedented number. “Emphasis on youth programs had not been in vogue for the last 8 years, but now it’s back,” said Eder. “We strongly believe that if you give a young person a job, that money will go right back into the economy.” Youth programs, such as those offered by GYA are designed to provide a foundation for youth to learn job skills and to become productive participants of the workforce, which is key for getting the economy back on track, said Eliza Dzhaneryan, Program Specialist at GYA, who case manages 60 kids. The program not only connects the youth with an entry level position at local businesses, but also helps them learn about writing resumes, the interview process, work etiquette and dress code, and many other things to help them navigate the workplace environment for the first time. “This is an opportunity and a stepping stone. It provides stability for the present and life skills for the future,” she said. “Our youth are learning how to make money, save money, and spend money, in many cases for the first time.” For some, a summer job can even lead down a potential career path, which was the case for 20-year-old Jilbert Zolfaghari, who enrolled in the GYA Youth Summer Program last year. “I figured it would be a good opportunity to make some cash over the summer, it was my first job,” he said. “But at the end of the summer they were impressed with me and likewise I was impressed with them and I was offered a full time job working at the Verdugo Job Center as a City of Glendale employee,” he said. Zolfaghari worked there for about 8 months, balancing work and school, and recently accepted a full-time position with the Employment Development Department EDD. “This gave me a lot of confidence. The initial goal was just to make some extra cash I didn’t think it would be anything that would further my career, but now that I’ve had the experience with the city and with the EDD I feel it’s really benefitted me. I’m honestly considering working in the public sector.” Businesses that hire through GYA also benefit from incentives that have proven effective in the current economic climate. The program pays the youths’ wages for the first 240 hours, which translates into savings of more than $2,000 for a company, according to Dzhaneryan, since GYA also pays for workers compensation and payroll tax during that period. “This is beneficial not only for the youth but also for businesses,” said Jozesina Chilingaryan, Service and Training Manager for Old Navy of Glendale, who has hired three employees through the program. “This allows businesses to have first hand experience with an employee before hiring him or her, rather than hiring blindly. It’s a win- win.”

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