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A Special Report: Jobs : SOUTH-CENTRAL : YOU Charts Course to Office Jobs


Craig Sasser has no illusions about the goals of Youth Opportunities Unlimited Inc., a job training and education program in South-Central.

"We're not trying to place (people) in a job that gives them financial security," said Sasser, 40, executive director of the organization.

Instead, YOU, at 8501 1/2 S. Vermont Ave., is preparing 14- to 21-year-olds for entry-level jobs by providing education and training. Last year, about 500 participated in one of the organization's four programs: educational development, job training, family and youth development and health-care services.

"What we are trying to avoid is getting the kids placed in janitorial jobs. We're trying to get them into office positions so they can hook up with mentors," Sasser said.

Trainees earn about $5.75 an hour and are placed in private- and public-sector jobs, such as with the Southern Christian Leadership Council's offices or in libraries.

The program, started in July 1990, is sponsored by the Private Industry Council of the city of Los Angeles, which oversees the Summer Youth Employment and Training Program. The program is administered by the city's Community Development Department and is funded by $5.2 million in grants from the Department of Labor and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The organization also runs the 2+2+2 Retail Management Apprenticeship Program, which offers juniors and seniors from Fremont High School a chance to learn retail management. Students from Fremont take retail management classes and are placed in jobs at stores such as K mart. The program is year-round. Similar programs also operate at Belmont, Dorsey, Lincoln, and Roosevelt high schools.

In addition, Sasser said he is trying to persuade local businesses to train young people for jobs.

Groups such as the Southern Christian Leadership Council of Greater Los Angeles say they are interested in YOU because "there aren't a whole lot of positive things going on and we need to expose our young people to things that give them choices," said Joe Hicks, executive director of the group.

He says the program's role extends beyond jobs because it "lets people know that there are organizations like ours that are committed to the community." In September YOU will open an alternative school and begin a child-care program for parents taking part in its programs. Information: (213) 237-2843.

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