The One City Youth Employment Summer Program, a product of the Department of Employment Services, has a tougher twist.
Offering a more individualistic work experience, with a heavier focus on youths being matched to appropriate jobs, the number of employees accepted to the program for the coming summer has been scaled down.
“We have put cap of 12,000 [students] for this summer to give the young people a more enriching experience,” said Neville Waters, Communication Director of the Department of Employee Services (DOES).
The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) received 12,000 applications in the first three days they were available at the end of February. The deadline closed March 11 when more than 20,000 applications had been received.
The SYEP team, including Program Director Gerren Price, has been hosting a number of Eligibility Certification Events at area high schools and the DOES office.
The Certification Events are an opportunity for the youth to turn in their eligibility documents. According to Waters, the overwhelming turn out at the events caused the applicant certification hours on the final Saturday, March 19, to be extended.
“We wanted to make it as convenient as possible for folks,” said Price.
According to Price, the program is going to be “very solid” this year.
The program was revamped when Dr. Rochelle Webb was recruited as Employee Services new director. Along with Mayor Gray’s administration, Dr. Webb made reorganizing the program a high priority.
In effort to enhance the program, half the number of students would be selected to participate as were accepted in previous years. For the first time in the program’s 32-year history, applicants had to complete a more rigorous application process. After applying, the employee hopefuls had to be certified. This included submitting picture I.D., social security card, proof of residence and a submitted resume or online profile.
This is much different than the previous operations, where the students effectively registered and received a paycheck, and which included 22,000 youth employees. The students will now be matched to jobs more suitable to their interests, while learning the actual steps involved in obtaining employment.
“For the first time we’re going to be doing a lot of work to make it more of an individual experience,” said Price.
The program is open to District youths between the ages of 14 and 21. The hope of Employee Services is that students can gain real work experience and applicable skills throughout the summer. Younger ages experience their first job and learn the basic skills of what is expected. The older students are placed in positions where they can utilize these skills and potentially carry the job beyond the summer.
“I feel really positive about the future and what we’re doing,” said Waters.
A DC native himself, Waters’ first job was through the SYEP. His summer working with the public school payroll was a valuable experience, which has now come full circle, as he offers a similar experience to the District’s youth 30 years later. According to Waters, a large responsibility for DOES is also to supply a well-trained work force for employers.
Employers offering jobs though the program include CVS, Georgetown University, Howard University, Cardinal Bank, Wachovia Bank, Madame Tussaund’s and the DC government.