WORK BUT no pay. A job but no supervisor. Experience but no skills, not good workhabits and a twisted idea of what it is like to hold a job. The mayor's summer jobs program is now more than half-way over, and disappointment and failure still fester in every corner of it. Thousands of young people have yet to be paid, and thousands of others have only been partially paid. Despite changes in the program after last summer's troubles, changes in the director of the program and, recently, the firing of the latest director, the jobs effort is well on its way to the historybooks as the latest disaster in a continuing series of them.
All attempts this year to correct thedifficulties with last summer's program appear to have proved futile. The reason is simple. The jobs program is in need of major overhaul, not of cosmetic touch-ups. The program's alteration needs to begin with these three basic steps:
The summer program should be part of a year-round effort on behalf of poor young people based on existing federal Comprehensive Employment and Training ACT (CETA) programs.
The summer jobs effort should be started in September, when there is time to evaluate the previous summer's program and determine what was done wrong and what was done right.
The head of the summer jobs program and the year-round local CETA program should be reporting directly to Mayor Barry. This would make it clear that the mayor regards summer jobs as the priority he has said it is. And with the head of the program identified with the mayor -- vested withsome of his authority -- there would be clear line of responsibility for the program instead of the bureaucratic shadow-game in which young people never know whom to get answers from.
The importance of the summer jobs program can be lost in the controversy over missing paychecks and bad management. But the reason for concernabout the program can be found by watching the city's low-income youth waste away the summer, while time for learning and opportunities slip away. In a recent article in The District Weekly section of this paper, staff writer Edward D. Sargent described life among poor young people in Anacostia as hanging out in front of fast-food restaurants, listening to the radio, playing dice, walking the streets with friends, babysitting and watching TV. This is not just in the evenings. It is all the time.When asked what they are doing and what they will be doing in the future, most reply, "Nothing". The importance of the summer jobs program lies in the hope of changing that answer.