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YouthWorks tries to tackle Baltimore's high unemployment

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WYPR

Thousands of young adults across the city are out of school and joining the workforce this summer through the YouthWorks program.

More than 6,700 individuals between the ages of 14 and 21, an increase of 6 percent compared to last year, are participating in the five week long stint across 400 work locations.

YouthWorks was created in 2015 and is designed to offer work and life skills beyond a paycheck.

Young Baltimore city residents have struggled with high unemployment for years.

Youth unemployment in the city was 14.6 percent in 2021, the highest among the 50 major metro areas nationwide, according to estimates by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 2017, upwards of 8,300 youth worked through the program across hundreds of workplaces. While participation in the program has waned since the coronavirus pandemic, administrators see value in the effort.

“So you can start at age 14, start to get your work experience, get things on your resume, build a professional network, increase your skills,” said Jason Perkins-Cohen, director of the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development.

Young adults help staff hospitals, construction sites but also government offices across the city. Participants can earn $12.50 per hour, which is minimum wage, at least 25 hours each week.

YouthWorks costs about $1,500 per participant and averages about $10 million each year, some of which is offset by grants.

Last year, Mayor Brandon Scott allocated $8.4 million for youth employment efforts including an expansion of a year-round YouthWorks Academy which began in February.

Bethany Raja is WYPR's City Hall Reporter
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