Program helping Houston students find summer work has scaled back under new administration

Nick Natario Image
Friday, June 7, 2024
Program helping Houston students find summer work has scaled back
Hire Houston Youth, a program that helped students find summer work, is losing employees due to the city's budget after being under new administration

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A program that helped thousands of young people find jobs in Houston appears to be different under a new administration.

Hire Houston Youth helps young people find work

Luis Moreno knows how important the summer months are for students.

"The summer is where I learned the most," Moreno recalled. "Nothing beats on-the-job training."

He received this experience eight years ago when he discovered Hire Houston Youth, a program that took him from the University of Houston to city hall.

"This is a stepping stone, especially for those marginalized communities that don't have that social capital," Moreno explained.

The program started helping a few hundred students and working with around 50 employers.

Last year, more than 20,000 people found work, and more than 600 employers participated.

The program scales back under a new mayor

About a decade ago, former Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner created the program. He attended kick-off events and attracted employers to participate.

Because of it, places like Workforce Solutions would host job fairs where thousands of young people found jobs. This year, job fairs were held outside the agency.

"The ones that happened last year did not happen this year," Workforce Solutions executive director Juliet Stipeche said.

Turner is gone, and the new mayor, John Whitmire, is in. Eyewitness News has been told this year, an HR event focused on filling 500 city internships.

ABC13 asked Whitmire's office why there had been a change but was told no one was available.

The other public-private jobs are listed on the program's website, but experts said it's not the same as a job fair.

"If it's a person's first job, it's difficult to read those postings and understand what it means," Stipeche explained.

The proposed city budget would eliminate more than 100 internships

Changes could not be just for this year. Whitmire's proposed budget cuts the summer internship program from 500 to 375 interns.

Council Member Tiffany Thomas couldn't believe it.

"I think every mayor wants to come in with a new administration and a new vision, but one thing is consistent among all mayors is that public safety is the number one priority of this city and the residents," Thomas said.

Thomas said the program helps cut crime by giving young people jobs.

"We're missing an opportunity," Thomas said. "We're at a pivotal place in our city. We know that school is out. HISD, Alief, and surrounding districts, and we're going to create a possibility of higher incidents of crime."

Are there still opportunities for young people to find work?

The city is no longer taking applications for its internships. You can still apply for other jobs through the Hire Houston Youth website.

If you would prefer an in-person experience, where you can learn about opportunities and get help with your resume, Workforce Solutions received an $8 million grant for paid internships for anyone 16 to 24 years old.

"We can place you with an employer where you can learn some on-the-job skills and soft skills and earn money at the same time," Workforce Solutions youth services manager Latoya Casimere explained.

To learn more about the program, you can visit any of the Workforce Solutions locations, or call the ABC13 hotline powered by Workforce Solutions at 713-243-6663.

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