An aspiring engineer, Saneru Williams shared his thoughts about YouthWorks, which recently kicked-off its Baltimore Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) to help address youth poverty and unemployment in the city.
“For me, I like having an opportunity to work in a field I’m interested in,” said Saneru. “For example, I’m interested in engineering. I get to practice and be around people who are in that same field and are actually actively working in that field full time.”
Saneru,17, is among the thousands of youths who have participated in the program since its inception. Founded in 1973 by the late former mayor of Baltimore William Donald Schafer, YouthWorks was formerly known as Blue Chip-In and changed its name in 1987.
Now in its 50th year, YouthWorks offered summer jobs to nearly 7,900 youth across almost 600 Baltimore City employers in various industries. YouthWorks officials says the number represents a 16% increase in jobs offered compared to 2022.
YouthWorks provided Saneru with the opportunity to work at Hazen and Sawyer, an engineering consulting firm that focuses on the planning, design and construction oversight of environmental infrastructure.
“I’m establishing a relationship,” said Saneru.“So far, I’ve only been working for about two weeks. Everyone around me are engineers who have been working there for a few years now. They graduated from college so I can see what their experience is like and see what they’re doing. It makes me more interested in the field because I can see exactly what work they do.”
YouthWorks is a program within the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, Youth Services Division. The program provide a five-week job opportunity to thousands of Baltimore City young people between the ages of 14 to 21. This year, summer employers range from Johns Hopkins University to the Baltimore Orioles, and students earn $13.25 per hour.
Jayzanay Blessett is also employed through YouthWorks. The 16-year-old is employed with the Baltimore City Police Department and works within its Records Management Unit. Asked what’s been the most valuable information she has learned through her employment, Jayzanay said, “For me, it’s learning how to adapt to certain things. I had to adapt…getting a job placement in something that didn’t interest me at all. I didn’t think I was going to like it, but I actually ended up enjoying it. Adapting to certain situations is the greatest thing I have learned.”
Blessett shared this advice to other youngsters who are provided with job opportunities.
“Ask around and see if there’s more to do,” she said. “Whoever your supervisor is at your job, ask if they do this or that just to get extra experience. That’s mainly what I see as an opportunity to get more experience in the field.”
The program’s partners include JP Morgan Chase, who have made a $150,000 grant donation to the program. A leading financial services firm based in the United States, JPMorgan Chase has been supporting Baltimore YouthWorks’ Summer Youth Employment program for more than five years.
Nadine Duplessy Kearns is Vice President of Global Philanthropy for JPMorgan Chase.
“We’re proud to be returning as a supporter, particularly this year as YouthWorks marks 50 years of commitment to the youth of Baltimore,” said Duplessy Kearns. “We’re also proud that every young person that wants an opportunity with YouthWorks is able to get placed in and explore careers to find out what it’s like to work.”
She added, “I think this is an important part of preparing for the world of work and preparing young people to be able to learn more about what it’s like to gain access to jobs that they find meaningful. It also helps them reach their own goals.”
Dr. S. Rasheem, Senior Program Manager for YouthWorks shared an exciting YouthWorks development.
“This year, in a landmark achievement, we will be launching the Youthworks year-round program for the first time ever,” said Dr. Rasheem. “This program is designed to extend our support beyond the traditional summer employment period, offering continuous opportunities for growth, learning and development throughout the year.”
She continued, “By embracing this new initiative, we will empower even more youth to excel, thrive and become the leaders of tomorrow.”
For more information about YouthWorks, visit www.youthworks.oedworks.com.