Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Evanston organizations optimistic about Obama SummerJobs initiative

Chicago-area organizations are looking to capitalize on President Barack Obama’s new initiative that strives to assist youth with securing summer employment.

The SummerJobs+ initiative, announced by Obama on Jan. 5, is “a call to action for businesses, non-profits, and government to work together to provide pathways to employment for low-income and disconnected youth in the summer of 2012,” according to a White House news release last week.

The plan comes after Congress’s October vote against Obama’s American Jobs Act, which included plans for youth employment. SummerJobs+ aims to create 180,000 employment opportunities for low-income youth, with a goal of reaching 250,000 employment opportunities by the start of summer, according to the news release.

Though details about the potential partnerships between the federal government and private and non-profit sectors are still being worked out, some local employment organizations expressed optimism about the possibility of being involved.

“It would be a great benefit to us,” said Jordan Burghardt, Youth Job Center of Evanston employer outreach coordinator. “It would definitely allow a lot more of our job seekers access to jobs. It would also allow us to reach a lot more employer partners by giving them additional options for partnering with us moving forward.”

The Youth Job Center works to help 14- to 25-year-olds find employment and said the organization notes a spike in the search for jobs during the summer.

“This coming summer, I know that we’re really going to be just focusing on making sure that job seekers are educated on how to find a summer job,” Burghardt said. “I would say the most important thing is people should start looking between now and March.”

Kristin Gudenrath, Jobs for Youth public affairs director, said her organization wants to join in on the initiative.

“Once it rolls out, we’d like to be a part of that,” Gudenrath said. “We’re hoping Chicago at least has a small piece of that pie.”

The city has over 100,000 unemployed 16- to 24-year-olds who are not in school, she added.

“Getting them engaged is going to do wonders for not only them, but also the communities, too, because they are bringing money back into the communities,” Gudenrath said.

Jobs for Youth offers year-round opportunities for clients 17 to 24 years old with a high school diploma or GED. In order to find a job through the organization, clients must compete a 15-day pre-employment life skills workshop to learn the “hard” and “soft” skills necessary for employment, Gudenrath said.

“Summer is a high-peak season. Whether it be a summer job or a full-time job, it is a way to get into the door,” Gudenrath said. “If we can create programs for them to be able to not only gain the experience at an employer, but also give them a financial backing in order to pay their rent, in order to pay utilities, child care and things like that for a few months, then that makes it all the better for the clients.”

Billy Milton, United States Department of Agriculture chief human capital officer, said the USDA will actively play a role within the initiative.

“President Obama challenged the federal government with increasing hiring opportunities for youth,” Milton wrote in an email to The Daily on Wednesday.

The USDA plans to hire 7,100 summer interns, up from 5,900 last year, including 1,000 veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program, Milton wrote.

The USDA intern application website features more than 1,000 applications and 300 hiring managers.

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Evanston organizations optimistic about Obama SummerJobs initiative