City council pushes for more youth jobs

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Talk of jobs for Memphis youth and adults dominated two separate discussions Tuesday morning during Memphis City Council committee meetings.

"There has to be a process in place to increase the number of children we're trying to serve," said Memphis Office of Youth Services Director Ike Griffith.

MPLOY Summer Work, the city's youth jobs program, grew in the past year and added 250 jobs in the most recent summer.

Thousands of students apply annually for the jobs -- both work and training positions -- that pay between $8 and $11 per hour.

On Tuesday, council members expressed a desire for that number to continue increasing, but Griffith said his department needs more updated infrastructure and staffing to make that a reality.

"We want the continued support of our businesses in the city of Memphis. We need to understand this cannot be a burden on city government alone," Griffith said.

The city kicks in roughly $1.5 million to pay the wages for the student's jobs.

Memphis City Councilman Martavius Jones said he wants to explore ways to make businesses that receive tax breaks from the city open up their payrolls for participation in the effort.

"I'm particularly targeting those where we are providing tax incentives, so the tax they aren't paying from a property tax standpoint, reinvest that into our community," Jones said.

But, youth jobs weren't the only focus.

Back in February, the WMC Action News 5 Investigators reported on the 16,000 jobs good-paying jobs that are available in Memphis but left unfilled in part because of an apparent skills gap and other issues.

A round-table group of educational and economic leaders discussed ways to better publicize the positions and get people more training in order to get the jobs. They vowed to meet regularly in order to devise a strategy to close the gap, even possibly using City of Memphis's website as a job-posting source.

"Hopefully within this jobs plan, we can let individuals know exactly what the skills set is, so if they have a will to get into a particular field, they'll have the skills set so they can be chosen," said Memphis City Councilman Ed Ford, Jr.

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