The STL Youth Jobs program will provide employment to about 700 St. Louis-area young people this summer through a $297,000 grant from Citi.
Most of the money will go towards financial literacy education for the young people, ages 16-24, in the program. STL Youth Jobs will also be funded with $300,000 allocated from the city budget. The 700 young people enrolled in the program this summer will work for over 200 employers, though there is still a waiting list of about 1,000 for whom there was no room in the program.
“There are very few things that a good job won’t cure, and young people in our city want to work, they want to make money,” Mayor Lyda Krewson said in a May 23 press conference. “Many of our kids live in neighborhoods where there are very few job opportunities, and St. Louis youth have a higher unemployment rate than any other group.”
The program counters that trend by often providing youth with their first jobs.
“Over 50 percent of our youth from year to year indicate that this is their first job,” said Hillary Frye, executive director of the program. “By developing and fostering their career interests, we are developing the workforce of the future of St. Louis.”
STL Youth Jobs doesn’t just provide steady summer employment-- it also provides financial management assistance to those in the program. First Financial Federal Credit Union will be partnering with STL Youth Jobs to set up bank accounts for these young people, as well as give them financial advising services, free of charge.
“Over 96 percent of all participants opened a bank account and established direct deposits” last summer, Krewson said. “Together, they saved almost $130,000. That’s a significant amount of money.”
The program hopes to use the grant from Citi to overcome another hurdle that often prevents youth from finding employment: the lack of a photo ID.
“A photo ID card is often a required component to getting a job and opening a bank account,” said Frye. “Through this investment, we have the opportunity to provide that to the youth who are part of our program, as well.”
Tony Gunn Jr., a Missouri State University junior who was formerly employed by STL Youth Jobs, said that the IT job he had through STL Youth Jobs contributed to his decision to major in Computer Information Systems.
Michael Holmes, executive director of SLATE (the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment), said that there are over 10,000 young people in the St. Louis area that need jobs.
“In St. Louis Public Schools, if you look at the high school alone, that’s maybe 10,000 kids,” Holmes said. St. Louis Public Schools students are now out for the summer this Thursday. “We could offer those kids employment, if we had the money,” Holmes said.
In addition, Holmes said, “College kids sometimes don’t come home, because they don’t feel there’s employment here for them.”
SLATE, which provided about 1000 summer jobs for St. Louis youth last year, is down to 150 this year due to budget cuts, according to Jared Boyd, chief of staff for treasurer Tishaura O. Jones. The 700 jobs provided by STL Youth Jobs will offset that some, but not completely.
The jobs will pay $10 per hour, but since they are mandated to pay minimum wage, the STL Youth Jobs workers’ wages could shift back to $7.70 per hour on August 29 if the measure that reversed the St. Louis city minimum wage increase to $10 per hour is signed by the governor.
Krewson also discussed the recent surge in gun violence and emphasized the necessity of jobs programs like this to create alternatives to violence.
“I think all St. Louisans are sad and outraged by the tragedy, by the gun violence that exists in our community,” Krewson said. “And certainly, the more young people that have the opportunity to develop their skills in other areas, the fewer young people will make decisions that are not good for them. These kinds of issues get pieced together a little bit at a time. This is one piece.”
Krewson hopes to expand the program, but needs help from the private sector.
“If your company can contribute and/or hire a young person, please contact us. It costs $2,500 to fund a young person in a job, including salary, their job training, financial literacy education, and job coaching, but any amount will help.”
For more information, visit http://stlyouthjobs.org or call 314-499-8176