With more than $3 million to spend on summer jobs for teen-agers, a Ventura County youth employment program is still struggling to fill its slots, especially in the more affluent east end of the county.
Now that Clinton Administration initiatives have essentially doubled the money available this year, the nonprofit Job Training Policy Council is offering minimum-wage jobs to 1,200 to 1,500 disadvantaged teen-agers. But a week before school ends for the summer break, a fifth of the jobs remain open.
Only in rural Santa Paula, Fillmore and Piru have low income and disabled youths filled the jobs available. In fact, 134 students have signed up for the 95 positions in those areas.
Oxnard teen-agers have filled 600 of the 700 jobs set aside there, while students in Ventura, Moorpark and Ojai have filled two-thirds of their available slots.
But Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks teen-agers have been slow to apply, leaving more than half the jobs in those areas open.
"You have an entirely different mentality in the east end of the county, in that the program is being looked upon as another form of welfare," said Roberto de la Selva, operations manager for the program. "The need is definitely there."
Using census and school information, the program allocates jobs to each community based on the number of low income and special education students. Simi Valley has 86 positions, 45 of which have been filled. Thousand Oaks has 74 spots and 28 applicants.
In cities such as Oxnard, with an established network for low income services, the youth jobs program receives referrals from counselors, teachers, even brothers and sisters who have been through the program, De la Selva said.
In the east county, though, "We're newer in terms of serving those areas. We don't have the links in the community," he said.
In recent weeks, managers have promoted the jobs program in schools, on the radio and in newspapers to bring in applicants. They have had some success, but if they do not fill the slots the jobs could be shifted to handle the overflow applications in the Santa Paula area.
The program places teen-agers, aged 14 to 21, to jobs with government and nonprofit agencies around the county. Students are interviewed on their career interests and matched to appropriate jobs. Students who need remedial course work can attend and be paid for their time in class.
Those youths hired can receive an average of $1,000 for six to nine weeks' work. Officials at the jobs council estimate that every dollar generates three dollars for the economy
"For every dollar you put out to a kid, he spends the money at a mall, the mall hires more clerks," said Everett Vital, the intake manager for the youth jobs program.
Clinton initiatives, designed to stimulate the economy, raised the program's annual grant from $1.5 million to about $2.5 million. Leftover funds delivered to the program late last summer brought this year's total to more than $3 million.
Students interested in applying for summer jobs with the Job Training Policy Council can call 1-800-500-7705.