The City of Pittsburgh has announced that it is accepting applications for its Summer Youth Employment Program (PSYEP) until Tuesday, May 15, 2012 through the Pittsburgh Partnership, a division of the city’s Department of Personnel and Civil Service.
The six week long jobs will employ city residents between the ages of 14 and 21 beginning July 2, and continuing through August 10. According to Lillian Reese-McGee, Assistant Director of the Pittsburgh Partnership, this year the program has funding to hire 372 young Pittsburghers for conservation or internship positions.
Funding levels remain the same from last year, according to Reese-McGee, but cost estimates from contractors who provide the jobs “came in a little lower than last year, allowing us to increase our numbers from 346 to 372.”
Funding for the program, which was reinstituted in the city in 2007 by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, comes from Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) administered by the city, and this year, $125,000 from the Pittsburgh Foundation and $120,000 from Highmark.
In 2009 and 2010, funding was supplemented by federal stimulus monies, says Reese-McGee, allowing the program to hire 916 of the 1500 applicants who were eligible for the program. “Once those stimulus funds were gone,” says Reese-McGee, hiring levels dropped to just over 300. The number of applicants also declined as potential candidates became aware of newly-tightened budgets for the program.
“The program is geared toward federal poverty limits, and those eligible for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families,” she says. “We can only fund jobs for the ‘poor kids.’ If parent income is too high, they don’t qualify.”
Applications are available for PSYEP in schools, through community partners, on the city website and from the two administrative partners who process the applications: YouthLINK South in the Goodwill Building at 2400 East Carson Street on Pittsburgh’s South Side, and YouthLINK East in the Eastside Neighborhood Employment Center (ESNEC) at 5321 Penn Avenue in the city’s Garfield neighborhood.
These two YouthLINK agencies collect the applications and verify all information in order to determine an applicants’ eligibility. In addition to income and age requirements, applicants must also meet citizenship and residency requirements, as well as application-specific questions. Following verification of the applications, they are submitted back to the Pittsburgh Partnership, who then conduct a lottery to determine who is hired for the positions.
Positions are assigned in government and non-profit agencies and a few businesses throughout the city. This year, Reese-McGee says, there are 12 subcontractors providing internship, or office administrative-type positions, and four which provide environmental, or outdoor, placements. “We are currently negotiating terms and placements with subcontractors, who are approved [for participation] through an independent agency.”
According to ESNEC’s Rick Flanagan, “the great thing is we get some great kids, and some kids with challenges.”
“Kids get put into a nurturing environment.”
“The lottery is applied by zip codes,” says Reese-McGee, “with the number of positions filled from each zip code determined as a relative percentage of the applications received from that neighborhood.” More applicants from neighborhoods where more applications are submitted will be selected, and fewer from those with fewer submissions.
“We wish we could do more, but when you work with a small amount of money, you have to decide,” she says. “The kids are supposed to be the future, but for people who need assistance, this is not a good time.”
Youth who are hired for the program can work up to 30 hours each week, for up to six hours per day, Monday through Friday, and will be paid $7.25 an hour. Starting and ending times will vary according to the work sites.
“They can earn some money, maybe help their parents, and support themselves,” says Reese-McGee, “and have some life experience to show for it. For some, just getting that paycheck in hand is a life experience.”
Reese-McGee says not every applicant hired is a good fit for the available positions, and so the Partnership maintains a waiting list to replace those who “fall away.”
“When someone falls away, there’s someone waiting.”
Ravenstahl says that “in order for our city to thrive, we must ensure the success of our young residents. We continue to work hard to prepare our future leaders.”
Flanagan says that as a part of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, an organization which also hires youth from the program, he “finds the city very committed around summer employment.”
“We are huge advocates for summer employment for youth as well,” Flanagan says, “but it all comes down to money.”
“These kids work all day, and that keeps them out of trouble,” says Flanagan, “and maybe when they get home, they’re too tired.”
Application packets, which include facts about the program, full instructions to apply and information about obtaining working papers for youth under age 18 are available at city schools, participating agencies, YouthLINK offices or from the Pittsburgh Partnership website at
http://pittsburghpartnership.org/youth/App package SYEP 2012.pdf. Applications must be completed and returned in person with all required documentation to YouthLINK offices before Tuesday, May 15. Both offices are open Monday through Friday from 10 am until 6 pm, and Saturday from 10 am until 1 pm, and are willing to offer assistance for youth through the application process.
“We are intensely campaigning to let people know about this,” Flanangan says, adding that, between both YouthLINK sites, they expect to qualify about 1000 applicants for the available positions following the two-week recruitment period.
Reese-McGee says that many of the subcontractors have end-of-season programs at which applicants and employers relate their experiences with the program.
“It lets us know that kids can bring value,” she says, “and are not a bother.”
By Nancy Hart