DOL rep: Give youths a chance at finding work
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent August 13, 2012 6:08PM
Updated: August 14, 2012 12:04AM
GARY — Minority youths, and African-Americans in particular, are experiencing some of the highest unemployment numbers ever, and the Obama administration is imploring businesses to help alleviate that problem.
The economy can support both a pro-business and pro-worker point of view, said Ken Bennett, regional representative for the U.S. Secretary of Labor, during the Gary Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon. Businesses, however, need to give young employees a chance for them even to get in the game.
“They need framing, they need support, they need to get that first paycheck to make a difference,” Bennett said. “It doesn’t have to be eight or nine months long; it doesn’t even have to be eight weeks long. It can be just a project.
“Any experience can make a difference.”
Bennett said that according to Department of Labor statistics, 30 percent of African-American youths are unemployed, or one out of every three. This is after the Recovery Act put 183,000 of them back to work.
And many who can’t work will find themselves in even more dire positions.
“One out of nine African-American males is going to be incarcerated, but that shouldn’t be a lifetime sentence,” he said. “There should be some opportunity for them to get back in the work force.”
There are still training grants available at the federal level, Bennett said, for businesses that are interested.
Classic Taxi owner Ken Stevenson, of Schererville, pointed out to Bennett that perhaps Northwest Indiana’s lack of public transportation may have something to do with unemployment in the area.
“Our largest employers aren’t served by it: (U.S. Steel Gary Works) starts before 6 a.m., but no buses are running that early; St. Anthony’s starts at 6 a.m., and they don’t even have buses going out there,” he said. “Our biggest handicap, because without public transportation, no one can get to work.”
Bennett agreed and said he and the Department of Labor could reach out to the Department of Transportation for its input.