The new head of the federal agency in charge of the summer youth employment program vows to follow what the data about the program show – regardless of whether that is good or bad.
“We’re going to do our best to show the data that we have, quantitative and qualitative, as we get it,” Assistant U.S. Labor Secretary Jane Oates, who heads the Employment and Training Administration, told Youth Today.
Oates said a report evaluating the Recovery Act’s $1.2 billion summer jobs program is due out this fall.
“I will make absolutely no apologies for the fact that I am for getting kids to work in the summer. Period,” Oates said during a recent interview in her office. “But if this report shows that it shouldn’t be continued, we’ll do everything we can to put together a better program.
“If we didn’t get it right this summer, we’ll work to make sure we have it right for next summer.”
As of June 30, some 106,996 youths had been employed through the program, while a total of 163,000 had been served with its funds. The program provides subsidized jobs at roughly $8 an hour to disadvantaged youth ages 14 to 24, but can also include education and training.
Under the summer youth employment program, “disadvantaged” means a youth who has certain barriers to education or employment, such as being deficient in basic literacy skills, a high school dropout, homeless, a foster child or a teen parent.
One person in the youth employment field said Oates has been hitting up state Workforce Investment Boards, which are responsible for implementing the summer jobs program, for “success stories.” Oates said that’s not an accurate characterization of her questions.
“We’ve been looking for stories of what’s working and what’s not working,” said Oates, who has visited two Recovery Act-funded sites in Philadelphia. She said the youths she observed there were “excited and engaged.”
When summer youth employment “didn’t make its way back into the Workforce Investment Act,” she said, “people said it was [because youths spent] a lot of time standing around. I think people have learned their lessons.”