In 1933, a particularly novel approach to massive youth unemployment was to send youths to federal camps, teach them how to plant trees, blaze trails and construct picnic tables in the nation's forests under a depression era work project called the Civilian Conservation Corp.
Confronted with a similar problem today, federal officials have begun dispatching youths between 16 and 23 to hundreds of forests, woodlands and waterways nationwide as part of a $1 billion effort to reduce the 18.1 per cent unemployment rate among teenagers. Among black youths, the unemployment rate is nearly 40 per cent.
Lauded as one of the most successful of Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal" programs, the CCC is said to have trained and provided work for more than 2.5 million youths, at once making men out of idle boys while improving federal property.
The more modern but less ambitious Youth Adult Conservation Corps is expected to employ an estimated 22,000 youths for one year in such areas as tree nursery operations and erosion control.
In the Washington area, between 75 and 100 youths will be hired to work on projects in Rock Creek Park, the National Arboretum and another still unnamed site in Prince George's County.
Applications for the project are begin taken at the Employment Service Office, located at 500 C St. NW. To be eligible one must be 16 through 23, unemployed, and available for full time work. The pay is $2.30 an hour.
Unlike the old CCC, the new conservation program will employ women. Also, youths living in areas with an unemployment rate of 6.5 per cent will be given preference. The nation's overall unemployment rate is currently 7 per cent.
Labor Department officials say the YACC is not expected to significantly reduce youth unemployment. It has been basically designed as an experiment to determine whether such a program will have a short-team impact on factors as varied as youth earnings and youth crime.
Aside from that, program planners say, there is real work to be done.
"For many years we've had a great backload of things that need to be done in the area of soil conservation, flood control and forest care," said Anola Harris, a planner with the Labor Department's task force on youth unemployment.
Harris added that 75 per cent of the youths employed by the YACC will eventually live in residential camps, but that initially the majority of the youths will commute to their work sites.
The YACC is currently the most conspicuous of the five programs funded under the $1 billion Youth Employment and Demonstration Projects Act, authorized by Congress last July.
That $1 billion represents less than $600 per unemployed youth, and is expected to create about a quarter of a million full-time minimum wage jobs, according to Labor officials.
As a consequence, Labor officials say, services and training will be limited, with the major emphasis being on "supervised work experience in a positive environment."