News

'Stimulus' Jobs Offer Skills, Paycheck to Disadvantaged Youth

The new U.S. federal program that’s meant to “stimulate” the economy back to health will spend more than $785 billion on education, infrastructure, and the environment, among other projects. The programs will lead to the creation of three-million jobs, President Obama has promised. A tiny fraction of the money will also pay directly for jobs for disadvantaged teens and young people. One such program in suburban New Jersey is giving some youths between 16 and 24 their first taste of the work world.

At the One-Stop Career Center in Hackensack, New Jersey, counselors are trying to put 400 youths to work this summer. "If you don't like the sun, the heat, you can do some office work,” a counselor tells a new prospect, 16-year-old Nahdir Gonzalez. 

To qualify, the youths must be economically disadvantaged, and also face at least one other barrier to getting a job, such as being a drop-out, or having been in trouble with the law. Gonzalez left school last year. Like everyone in the program, he'll earn the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for working 20 hours a week through August.

“I want a job because I don't want to get in any trouble,” Gonzalez said. “I want to stay away from the streets, keep my head on my shoulders, stay on the right path, so I can be successful in life.”

Salvatore Mastroeni, a former high school principal, is the director of the publicly-funded One Stop career center, which offers training and job counseling to workers of all ages.

“There's going to be next steps for you after you leave this program,” he told Gonzalez. “Hopefully, in September or October we might be able to begin either a GED program for you, connecting you then with a college, [and] with a transition program for career pathways."

Mastroeni often makes the drive from Hackensack to nearby Englewood, New Jersey, where he's placed young workers at the recreation department and other local government units.

"Mayor's office, schools, any public entity where youngsters can gain workforce readiness skills,” Mastroeni explained. “And in our program, we will be teaching them workforce readiness skills: a lot of information on resume writing, preparing for applications, preparing for an interview.”

Eighteen-year-old Damar Palmer is one of the 320 youths hired so far. He works caring for grounds and buildings at the recreation center in Mackay Park.

"I enjoy it,” Palmer said. “These are things I like to do, I like to work with my hands. If it weren't for this job, I wouldn't be working. I wouldn't be giving back to the community.  So, I’m thankful for this job."

20-year-old Desirae Somerville is working in the office of a near-by school, and also helping out at the recreation center.

“They have me down at Liberty School, working with other children,” she said. “We're fixing up the classrooms, painting, and doing inventory.” Asked what she would be doing this summer if she hadn’t gotten a stimulus job, Somerville said, "I'd probably be home now sleeping -- or looking for another job."

But the purpose of the program is not only to help low-income youth to join the work world, Mastroeni notes. It's also to kick up economic activity through the young workers' spending.

“To help parents, to help them buy their sneakers or to buy clothing, to move the economy in some way, shape or form ahead,” Mastroeni said. “And we hope that this will help ignite the economy and get us moving in the right direction."

Most of the young workers say they'll spend their pay as fast as they earn it. Jonathan Nunnally, who lives with his girlfriend and baby son at his parents' house, said, "I'm using the money basically for paying for my little room that I rent at my mom's house, and paying for my son."

Desirae Somerville said she’s saving for a Florida vacation, and Damar Palmer wants to buy video games and clothes. Nahdir Gonzalez said he knows where his first paycheck will go.

“I'm going to the mall and I'm going to go shopping. And I'm going to reward myself with some clothes,” he said.

On a larger scale, U.S. lawmakers hope that other Americans who find jobs created through the stimulus program will do the same, and that their spending will jumpstart the national economy.
 
But for youth who face challenges to finding work even in a strong economy, Mastroeni says, the confidence and skills they gain in these subsidized jobs could prove more valuable in the long-run than their paychecks.

Abdul Hakeem Imoro also contributed to this report

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs