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Pittsburgh employment program prepares youths for world of work

| Tuesday, July 28, 2009, 12:00 p.m.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl on Monday visited some of the youngest members of the city's work force.

Touring four locations where young people ages 14 to 21 are employed as part of the city's six-week Pittsburgh Summer Youth Employment Program, Ravenstahl said the program teaches the importance of on-the-job training.

"We want to keep this going every year," Ravenstahl told Alex Anderson-Scott, 15, a sophomore at Peabody High School in Highland Park who has been working side by side with paramedics and administrative staff at the city's EMS headquarters in Shadyside. "This makes Pittsburgh a better place to live."

The employment program grew from 197 youths in 2007 to 272 last year. This year's count is 554, thanks to $1 million in federal stimulus money, $500,000 in state grants and a $150,000 contribution from The Pittsburgh Foundation.

Each employee works 30 hours a week and is paid $7.25 an hour. An 18-hour paid certification course teaches them how to write a resume and interviewing skills, said Judy Hill Finegan, acting director of the city's Department of Personnel and Civil Service Commission.

This was the first year "white collar" internships were offered in addition to conservation jobs. Rick Flanagan, youth development director at the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp., a local civic group responsible for 90 employees, said the internships expose the youths to something different.

"Many are very high-end nonprofit entities, and (the interns) are learning about the working world. For a lot of young people, this is a very adult experience and, to their credit, they've raised up to that level," he said.

The conservation jobs have students building steps, removing invasive plants and removing brush on trails, said Tamika Hunter Mickle, regional program manager for the Student Conservation Association.

"We're preparing them for green jobs, exposing them to the concept of conservation, and educating them on the environment," Mickle said.

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