A 12-member task force has been assembled by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto with a goal of expanding job opportunities for the city’s high schoolers.
Specifically, the group has been tasked with overhauling the Summer Youth Employment Program. Last year the program employed more than 300 residents between the ages of 14 and 21.
Stefani Pashman, chief executive officer of the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board, is among the members. She said although the program is strong, it has plenty of room for growth.
“There are many, many more youth who would be interested in opportunities to really launch them on the career pathways and get them into local businesses and local nonprofit agencies,” Pashman said.
She believes that if the program is to grow, the task force must motivate businesses to open more doors for youth.
Also on the task force are officials from a variety of other Pittsburgh organizations, including the United Steelworkers Union, Pittsburgh Promise and City Council.
This diversity will encourage collective thinking, Pashman said, which will produce the “best ideas and best thinking.” Her organization itself has a mission to distribute public funds to agencies to serve high school-age youth.
“We are interested in both providing our perspective and our experience of what it takes to service youth, to grow these programs to do it well,” Pashman said. “And also to think about how we can more closely align our experiences so, as a region, were doing the best we can with all our programs collectively going in the same direction.”
Peduto has not set a date for the first meeting of the task force, but Pashman said it must be soon because the time frame is tight. Peduto’s top staffer Curtiss Porter and Debbie Lestitian will preside over the meetings.
When the members meet, the task at hand is clear.
“We’ve seen about half as many jobs for youth available over the last ten years in our region,” Pashman said. “And we are trying to figure out how we can bolster opportunities for youth who are interested in working in the summer.”
Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess is on the task force and has been pushing for years for the program to grow with a focus on the city’s lower income youth.