DC Summer Youth Employment Program Off To Rocky Start

Guess I should have waited for the opening day news before publishing my rose-colored glasses view of the prospects for this year’s summer jobs program.

The Washington Post and other news sources, including WUSA9.com, myfoxdc.com and Channel 8 News all report major problems with assignments.

Seems that some youth were sent to job sites that already had more workers than they could handle. Some were sent to a site where there were no jobs because the company didn’t have a contract with the Department of Employment Services.

Then there were some who needed transfers for health or safety reasons, e.g., a participant with asthma who was assigned to work at a public (chlorinated) swimming pool. At least one teen was assigned to summer school when she wasn’t supposed to go.

All told, somewhere between 700 and more than 800 youth wound up at Gallaudet University’s field house to get new assignments. Some reportedly stood in line for hours. Some were ultimately told to call at 6:00 a.m. the following day to find out what, if anything, the program had lined up for them.

One could expect some glitches in a program as large as the District’s. And some of the youth seeking reassignments simply wanted something closer to home — reasonable, but not necessarily something the program should be expected to deliver.

But no-matches and mismatches involving so many young people?

Joe Walsh, head of DOES, says that the program “is running 100 percent better than last year and 1,000 percent smoother than any years previous.” That well may be, given past administrative foul-ups.

To Walsh’s credit, some 20,000 youth were, as he says, “out there working all over the city.” And he recognizes there are still problems to resolve.

Mayor Fenty dismisses allegations of confusion. “There are over 22,000 kids in the program, he e-mailed Fox 5. “Some kids are being transferred to different assignments and other kinks may be getting ironed out. What’s the chaos?”

What’s this about over 22,000 kids? I thought the DC Council capped the program at 21,000. Could over-enrollment again have swamped the program’s capacity to get all participants working on day one?

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