Summer jobs funded for 3,000 in state

By Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / May 11, 2011

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BROCKTON — Jovan Wilson said he would have probably spent last summer waking up late, hanging out with friends, and roaming the streets, but instead he found structure in a job at a local public defender’s office downtown, employment secured through the city’s Summer Youth Job Program.

Yesterday, moments before Governor Deval Patrick announced $6 million in statewide funding for about 3,000 youth summer jobs, Wilson, an 18-year-old graduate of Brockton High School, stood at a lectern near Campanelli Stadium and spoke before about 100 people, half of whom are students at his alma mater. He told them the job taught him valuable skills that he will have for life.

“It was my first actual official job experience, but it puts your foot in the door, it helps you open your eyes, and it shapes you to become what you want to become when you get older,’’ said Wilson, who plans to attend Massasoit Community College in the fall and eventually own his own apparel store.

“Everyone has big dreams, but my dreams are just your average dreams,’’ Wilson said. “If I make it big, that’s one thing. If I don’t, I will still be happy because I will be successful one way or another.’’

Youthworks, the statewide job program, targets at-risk youth, primarily from low-income families, from the ages of 14 to 21, and most of the jobs are in the corporate, health, social services, or public sector. Jobs range from clerical to landscaping. The program operates in 29 cities and towns with the greatest incidence of juvenile detention and adjudication. The participants work an average of 25 hours a week over a six-week period.

Last year the Commonwealth used $8 million in state funding and received $2 million in federal stimulus funds to create about 6,400 youth jobs statewide, according to the governor’s office. This year, Massachusetts is using $4 million in state funding and $2 million in the discretionary federal Byrne Grant to fund about 3,000 jobs. As many as 1,000 more jobs might be created with additional funding being considered by the state Legislature. The lack of federal stimulus funds this year will result in 1,900 fewer jobs than in 2010.

Employment and workforce investment boards from Berkshire County to the North Shore will receive a portion of the funding.

Boston will receive the largest allotment, about $1.4 million, to go along with about $4.3 million in city taxpayer funding and at least $1 million in private funding from the John Hancock Foundation. The money is expected to create at least 5,000 jobs in the city, according to city officials.

Hundreds of private organizations such as Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Boston University, and the Boston Red Sox will probably hire an additional 3,000 teens as part of Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s summer jobs program, said Conny Doty, director of the mayor’s office of jobs and community services, in a phone interview yesterday. The mayor is expected to hold a youth summer jobs rally with hundreds of students in Boston’s financial district on May 25, she said.

“Per capita, I’m not familiar with any other American city that puts as many young people at work as we do,’’ Doty said.

Lew Finfer, organizer of the statewide Youth Jobs Coalition, praised Patrick’s announcement yesterday.

“Youth Jobs is very pleased given the financial crisis facing the state,’’ he said. “Those jobs will go a long way toward teaching our youth the skills they need to succeed.’’

In the past two years, the coalition has held rallies on the State House steps. In February, about 1,100 youths participated, seeking legislative support for youth job funding.

Patrick, in addressing the crowd in Brockton yesterday, said his first summer job came at age 11, when he operated a snow cone machine.

“It was the beginning of learning the discipline of work, of being in the company of positive adults, of having an alternative to some of the tomfoolery that we could have gotten into had we not had those opportunities,’’ he said. “We understand how important it is to try to make these opportunities available.’’

Brian Ballou can be reached at