The enrollment process for young D.C. residents interested in securing jobs through the city’s 2014 Summer Youth Employment Program began Jan. 24, and will run through Feb. 15.

Under the program, operated by the city’s Department of Employment Services, young people aged 14 to 21 will receive six weeks of work experience from June 30 to Aug. 8.

“The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) continues to serve as a cornerstone of the District’s effort to ensure that our young people have productive, healthy options for summer activities,” Mayor Vincent C. Gray said in a statement.

Gray said that “management of the program and the opportunities it offers participants” has improved in the last three years. He said the program increased the number of tech-related opportunities for youths by 50 percent last year.

“We also saw a major spike in youth being hired into permanent, full-time positions in both the government and private sectors as a result of their SYEP experience,” Gray said.

The program was started by current D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry when he was mayor in the 1980s as a way to provide work experience for D.C. youths and to teach skills and workplace etiquette while allowing them to earn money.

But it has often been the source of controversy. Barry was criticized by some who said he used the program to curry favor with voters. Last year, he criticized Gray for cutting its funding. According to the website, Gray reduced the program’s budget from the $34 million it received during Adrian Fenty’s administration to $11.7 million.

Youths may apply for the program at A “Midnight Madness” event to kick off the application process was scheduled from noon to midnight on Jan. 24 at the Department of Employment Services office community room at 4058 Minnesota Avenue NE. Young people in need of assistance completing the application and their parents were welcomed to attend.

Authorities said applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis and must be received by Feb. 15.

“Space is limited, so youth should apply early,” the statement said.

Department of Employment Services Interim Director Tom Luparello said more than 14,000 young people participated in the program last year.

“We are geared up and looking forward to the start of the upcoming Summer Youth Employment Program,” he said in a statement. “This year we are excited to introduce technological innovations to minimize the time it takes to process returning youth participants.”

Zachary Lester

AFRO Staff Writer