June 10, 2010; Source: Herald Tribune | When the budget ax falls, no one is safe. Not even several hundred young people from poor families in two Florida counties who were counting on jobs this summer. According to the Herald Tribune, the Suncoast Work Board, which helped find employment for 350 low-income youth last summer in Sarasota and Manatee counties, is not getting some $640,000 in federal funding again this year.
Before the cut, some 200 young people had applied for jobs, and now that those positions are gone, they’re looking elsewhere for work. But with the economy still sputtering and with the few jobs going to adults, prospects are bleak. “We’re disappointed and, more importantly, the young people are disappointed,” said Suncoast CEO Leslie Loveless. “This was an opportunity for them to learn new skills and be engaged in positive activity.”
Under the program, agencies and organizations, including Sarasota County, the Florida Department of Children and Families, Gulf Coast Legal Services and Habitat for Humanity provided jobs that were underwritten with federal dollars. And more than just employment, the program provided training beforehand for participants in work readiness, résumé writing, how to dress for work, and communication skills. In addition, the program targeted young people most vulnerable to dropping out of school or turning to crime.
Barbara Harvey of Educational Consultants Consortium, a nonprofit group she co-founded to identify youth to take part said the program gave young people “the opportunity to make money so they could buy school clothes. It meant the community could keep these youths actively involved.” Now, looking for jobs that aren’t there is a poor substitute for keeping young people engaged and out of harm’s way over the summer.—Bruce Trachtenberg