Over 5,000 kids will be off the streets this summer. Multiply that by 35 years and you’ll get the approximate number of high school and college students YouthWorks has employed since it first began in Baltimore City. Evolving from a summer program that organized youth into beautification crews which cleaned up the city for minimum wage, YouthWorks has adopted “Summer Jobs Launch Careers” as its 2010 theme and is currently registering youth and young adults between 14 and 24 years old for thousands of public and private sector summer opportunities.

The program allows youth to explore careers and helps them appreciate the value of education. Director Alice Cole said participants develop their career interests while gaining essential work skills that employers require.

“We want them to be active engaged in positive activity in the summer,” Cole said. “We want to make sure that as many youth as possible have the opportunity to work this summer. For the past couple of years, we’ve been offering jobs to everyone who registers. We hopefully will be able to do the same thing, pending funding.”

Three focal points for this summer are business and finance, travel and tourism, and health and bio science, which Cole said are the fastest growing career fields. As long as students fit the age criterion, they will be placed and will receive a minimum wage job in the vicinity of where they live. Job training is provided at each site, so students are prepared for their work environment. Young adults will be employed this year, like they were for the first time last year, as team leaders for the teens. Students will also be introduced to financial literature.

“They good get work ethic based on the fact that they get real life, hands-on experience,” said Jannie Williams, a YouthWorks assessment specialist. “In the public sector, it could be a school, recreation center, or daycare center. On the private end, it could be Johns Hopkins. We partner with a number of businesses.”

While assessment specialist Theresa Mack said YouthWorks is a good program for all participants, she said those who benefit the most are disadvantaged youth including children in foster care, those who have run away from home or come from low-income backgrounds.

“It keeps the kids off the streets and gives them a positive attitude toward life,” Mack said. “They learn more. Its gets them ready for the real world.”

Students are encouraged to fill out an application for YouthWorks at one of several recreation centers, and are asked to bring their social security number, identification and birth certificate with them. Registration ends March 12, which is around the time students will be matched with their work site. Jobs run from June 21 to July 30. Contact the YouthWorks office at 410-396-5627 or summerjobs@oedworks.com for more information or a list of registration sites.