Hard work. Integrity. Discipline. Honesty. Those were among thefundamental lessons I learned from my first summer job at a men’sclothing store in the heart of black Baltimore. Those values Âand thepaychecks Â elped get me through college, on to law school, and allalong my improbable journey to becoming a senior member of the staffserving President Barack Obama.
In addition to being the President’s Cabinet Secretary, I also amChairman of his My Brother’s Keeper Task Force. In that role, I am taskedwith ensuring that we do all we can to make sure boys and young men ofcolor, indeed all our youth, know their success matters to this nation.They need to have clear pathways to achieve their dreams, regardless ofwhere they come from or the circumstances into which they are born.
Unfortunately, we know from the very beginning of their lives, that boysand young men of color are more likely than their peers to be born intolow-income families, live in concentrated poverty, or attendunder-performing schools.
Research also reveals to us that Black and Hispanic teenage boys lagsignificantly behind their peers in summer employment and year-roundjobs. The employment gap broadens as young men get older, making them thehighest percentage of the nearly seven million youth, aged 16-24,disconnected from school and work.
As the President has said, “access to a job in the summer and beyond canmake all the difference to a young person Âespecially those who don’thave access to many resources and opportunities.”And that’s why I’m soexcited to champion our “Summer Opportunity Project,”working withcommunities and businesses including LinkedIn to increase access tosummer jobs. This project is a key component of our Administration’seffort to ensure all kids successfully enter the workforce.
The Summer Opportunity Project builds off recommendations from the MBKTask Force around the importance of increasing the number of qualitysummer and after school jobs, paid internships and entry-levelopportunities available to all youth. And, it mirrors exciting work beingdone at the local level by some of our MBK Community Challenge cities.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is leading an effort with Seattle Public Schoolsand “School’s Out Washington”to reach more than 15,000 youth with summerjobs, learning, meals, enrichment, and reading opportunities. Los AngelesMayor Eric Garcetti announced a new goal to hire 15,000 young people in2016 through his Hire L.A.’s Youth Program. And, Charlotte Mayor JenniferRoberts partnered with Microsoft on High Tech Summer Camps that willprovide exposure to career fields in technology to as many as 300students.
Focusing on increasing summer opportunities, including for disconnectedyouth, is also important because it can offer young people authenticexposures in fields like Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math(STEM) that they might otherwise not have. We know, for example, thattoday there are half a million available jobs that require skills in STEMand computer science. To instill a passion in our young people, and toconnect them to mentoring and support networks that can lead to theseterrific, well-paying jobs, we’ve recently announced the first MBK andCouncil on Women and Girls “National Week at the Lab.”
Last week, more than 50 national laboratories and research facilitiesinvited thousands of students from across the country to spend a day withtheir talented scientists and engineers, and engage in hands-on STEMactivities and experiments. In connection with the MBK STEM plusentrepreneurship program, we’ll continue working to create pathways thatwill lead to meaningful jobs and high wages.
When I’m on the road visiting MBK Communities and I ask young folks whatmessage they would like me to share with the President on their behalf,invariably their “asks”include telling the President that they “needjobs.” These announcements, in connection with the outstanding work beingdone by Federal, state, and local agencies, the National Summer LearningAssociation, the private sector, and other key partners will go a longway towards creating these opportunities.
Working together, we will continue to call upon businesses of all sizesto provide opportunities and investments in our kids to make sure thatall of our nation’s young people have the skills and tools required toexplore new frontiers and opportunities, starting with that first summerjob.