As Mayor of Baltimore, the late William Donald Schaefer started “Blue Chip-In,” a summer job program for youths. More than 40 years later, and now with Mayor Brandon Scott leading the city, the program which is now called YouthWorks is still going strong.
Through YouthWorks, teens and young adults ages 14-21 are offered summer positions
with private, nonprofit, and city and state government employers throughout Baltimore
City. Participants work in a variety of industries and gain workforce readiness and
career-specific skills over a five-week summer session.
The application process for the 2023 session will be opening soon, and Baltimore City businesses and youths are encouraged to apply. Next year’s session will run from July 10, 2023, to August 11, 2023. YouthWorks will be paying the state’s minimum wage of $13.25 per hour. Participants may work up to 25 hours a week for five weeks and will have the opportunity to earn over $1,500 next summer.
YouthWorks is offered through the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development. S. Rasheem is program manager of the YouthWorks Program.
“Our primary responsibility is to provide a job for every youth in Baltimore City between the ages of 14 to 21,” said Rasheem.“We also want their employment to be meaningful for both the youths and the employers. We want youths to walk away with not only a paycheck but also job skills. If anyone works with youths in some capacity, they are probably going to come in contact with the YouthWorks program whether they are a teacher, after school program coordinator, Parks and Recs supervisor, parent, or nonprofit.”
In 2022, YouthWorks placed 5,819 youth participants in jobs across over 400 worksites in industries that included technology, design, and finance. According to YouthWorks, many
youth workers have gone on to gain full-time employment with their worksite after the summer ended.
“It’s a little hard to iron down an exact number because so many youths come back,” said Rasheed referring to the number of youths who have been placed in jobs through YouthWorks since its inception. “For example, if a youth comes into the YouthWorks program at age 14, they still have several years where they can participate in the program until they are 21. But we estimate that well over 73,000 youths have been placed since 2013. That’s since 2013 and not dating back to the origins of when the program was founded.”
She added, “For a lot of people in the city, it was their very first job. It’s their very first experience at having a job, getting a paycheck, and families want to have that experience. Also, families appreciate the additional income. I think that there are relationships that are formed and built. The program has been around for so long because the city and communities support it, and families and youths support it.”
Rasheed, who has worked in various capacities with YouthWorks during her seven-year career with the program, talked about its critical role in Baltimore City.
“One of the most quantitative ways to identify how this program helps the city, is the increase in income that is coming into the home for five or six weeks,” said Rasheed. “That can help alleviate some of the financial responsibilities in a home. I also believe it’s a deterrent for mischief an adolescent would typically get in without other things to really engage them. So, it’s a way of gaining income into their family, gaining job skills, and for some folks, it helps them to find out what they want to do in the future. YouthWorks also helps employers to tap into the next generation of talent.”
YouthWorks participants talked about the valuable experience they received through the program.
“I want to be an astronaut and YouthWorks has given me awesome resources and
amazing people who help me research opportunities!” said 14-year-old Milo.
Semira, 18, is a YouthWorks camp counselor.
“I want to be a therapist,” said Semira.
“I’m able to speak with kids here and see how they’re feeling through their emotions and words. It’ll help me understand kids more!”
Lalia, 17 talked about the most valuable skill she learned through her participation in YouthWorks over the summer months.
“I’ve gotten more time to spend with my friends which helped me learn new words in
English,” she said. “My first language is Swahili!”
Carvon 15, added, “YouthWorks has helped me learn how to have a job! I know now how to be more responsible, get up, wake myself up, be in interviews and how to work. I have to be more mature.”
Applications open for youths and worksites on January 3, 2023. Baltimore City business and youths can apply for the YouthWorks 2023 session by going to bit.ly/joinyouthworks, contacting the YouthWorks team by calling 410-545-1820, or via email at [email protected].