Summer jobs programs serve Gateway Cities

Research from Andy Sum and Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies documents the important connection between holding down a job in high school and attachment to the labor force in later years. Professor Sum’s research tells us that high Gateway City teen unemployment rates could have economic consequences that persist well into the future. Budget makers have been struggling to preserve the programs that these communities need to give high school students employment opportunities. Here’s a quick summary of three youth job programs and their funding prospects for the new fiscal year.

Connecting Activities, a jobs program run by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, focuses on helping students develop an association between school and career goals through work-based learning. Teachers partner with local employers to place teens in internships in a variety of fields. The program targets students with low MCAS scores.

Funding for Connecting Activities is distributed through a competitive process. Cities that apply receive a minimum of $75,000. However, communities that have developed the infrastructure to support the program get significantly more funding. For FY11, programs in Worcester and most other Gateway Cities only received the $75,000 minimum.

Resources for the program are down dramatically from the peak in 2007, when the state provided $7 million to support more than 17,000 students. The Senate budget would cut Connecting Activities by nearly 40 percent; the governor’s budget funds the program at the current $2 million level.

YouthWorks, an employment program administered by the Commonwealth Corporation, delivers funding to targeted communities with high numbers of at-risk youth. Grants are distributed using a formula that reflects the number of residents in each community ages 14 to 21 from families with income below the federal poverty level. Youth enrollment in the program is based on a variety of risk factors, such as homelessness, foster care, and delinquency. Last summer, YouthWorks drew $7.2 million in funding from both the FY10 and FY11 budgets.

The state also provides resources to communities with high incidences of gang and youth violence through Shannon Grants. These funds are available to implement comprehensive approaches to reduce gang violence, including providing summer and year round youth employment opportunities.

By combining resources from an FY11 supplemental budget and funds from the FY12 budget, the governor hopes to make $8 million available to support Shannon Grants in the coming year. Shannon Grant funding has fallen from the $11 million provided when the program was created in FY07.

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