The idea is simple: Inglewood business people should look first to Inglewood young people when they hire entry-level employees.
City Councilman Daniel Tabor and several business leaders are preparing such a proposal--patterned after a recent Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce agreement with the City of Los Angeles--to the Inglewood-Airport Area Chamber of Commerce. The Los Angeles chamber members committed themselves to provide 14,000 jobs for disadvantaged youths.
But that simple idea raises complex questions about youth unemployment in Inglewood, where the grim arithmetic mirrors that of predominantly black and Latino communities around the country. The percentage of unemployed young people 16 to 19 years old in Inglewood corresponds to the county average of 19%, said Jerry Shea of the state's Employment Development Department. However, in both Inglewood and the county, unemployment among black teen-agers is more than 30%.
Some Not Counted
Those statistics do not include a large population of teen-agers and young adults who need jobs but have stopped looking, often because they lack the most basic job skills, Shea said
Nor do the statistics include those who have entered the dangerous but lucrative drug culture and are making enough money to drive expensive cars and support their families, various officials said.
"We're losing those kids," said Jan Vogel, who directs federally funded Joint Training and Partnership Act programs for economically disadvantaged South Bay residents. "They don't need us."
The $3.1-million federally funded program is administered by the Inglewood-based Private Industry Council, which provides sorely needed training and jobs in the Inglewood-Hawthorne area and other South Bay communities. This summer, federal funds are paying 117 teen-agers working for city departments and nonprofit enterprises, said Vogel, an Inglewood city employee assigned to the agency.
Another 100 young people are working in permanent jobs, some of them in construction and other relatively well-paid fields, where employers split salary costs with the federal government, Vogel said.
"What we're doing we're doing well," Vogel said, adding that 78% of the trainees move into unsubsidized employment, the military or educational programs. "But it's a limited number of kids."
Councilman Tabor agrees, pointing out that many young people looking for jobs are not served by the federally funded programs because of restrictions on income. For a trainee from a family of four to be eligible, for example, the family's annual income can be no more than $14,000.
Tabor said young people are constantly coming to him for jobs; he wants to match them with business people who need workers.
"I want a commitment that they will look first to Inglewood residents, especially young people ages 14 to 21," Tabor said. "I'm talking about the gamut: small businesses, retail, chain stores, the Forum."
Teach Basic Skills
Tabor and chamber manager Roger Scott are developing a proposal asking businesses to support a program that would instruct teen-agers in basic work habits and job-hunting skills, then place them with employers. Tabor envisions local schools providing a pool of applicants whom chamber members would contact before they publicize job openings.
The school system could use help in training and placing students who do not qualify for the federally funded programs, said Kermet Dixson, director of special projects for the Inglewood Unified School District.
"There are kids whose parents can help them find jobs, and kids who quality for JTPA (Joint Training and Partnership Act programs). It's those kids in the middle you feel sorry for," Dixson said.
Working on Details
The details of the proposal are still being worked out, Scott and Tabor said. Tabor sees the school district, possibly with city help, training employees for fully paid positions, while Scott described a JTPA-style program where employers pay only part of the salaries with the rest coming from other sources such as government or the Chamber of Commerce.
Selling the idea to employers remains a challenge, Scott said.
Businessmen interviewed about the proposal said they are reluctant to comment until they know further details. Several said that they had nothing against the idea of hiring Inglewood young people but were concerned about pressure to hire unqualified workers.
"You have to be careful how you go about something like this," said one store owner. "Otherwise people get turned off."
Give Them 'First Shot'
Tabor did not disagree. "I'm not saying anyone should hire someone they don't want to hire," he said. "If they're not qualified, fine. Just give them the first shot."
To deal with reluctant employers, Scott has an energetic sales pitch: