A much-anticipated employment-training program intended to provide city jobs to 250 students considered likely to drop out of school will be delayed for several months because of miscalculations and a slow bureaucracy, officials have acknowledged.
As a result, the students, who were to have been employed by the middle of this month, are likely to remain jobless until summer's end.
The year-round program, known as the Los Angeles Youth Service Academy, is being run jointly by the city and the Los Angeles Unified School District and was to place the students in the city's Recreation and Parks Department. But the department, which needed the students primarily during the morning, could not provide enough jobs during the times the students were available to work, said Diane Morales, senior personnel analyst for Recreation and Parks.
Now the city's Personnel Department is attempting to salvage the program by identifying jobs that mesh with the students' schedules. The job-training program, which ultimately is expected to employ 1,000 students considered at risk of becoming dropouts, is financed by a $5-million grant from the Department of Water and Power.
Morales, who called the delay unfortunate, said each agency involved with the project had its own set of rules, which tended to slow progress on the program.
"It's just one of those things that happens," she said. "Having one bureaucracy is bad enough, but when there's three, it can become a monstrosity."
Morales said Recreation and Parks was chosen to house the Youth Service Academy because it was equipped to handle an influx of student employees.
But "the more we worked with it, the more we realized that our morning hours did not match the hours of the students because they were in class," she said. "It would have been tough for the school district to make the students available."
The program calls for the student workers to be paired with city employees who will act as mentors, said Dawn Hopkins, coordinator of the project for the school district. In addition, career-oriented seminars and retreats are to be made available for the students, Hopkins said.
Although officials said they have not established specific criteria for admission, Hopkins said it is likely that student selections will be based on applications and letters of recommendation.
Hopkins said students who are selected can keep their jobs only if they are making satisfactory progress in their classes and have good attendance records.
The coordinators of the Youth Service Academy say the job program marks the first time the city and the school district have worked together to combat the dropout problem in Los Angeles.
Phil Henning, assistant general manager of the city's Personnel Department, said his office is beginning to work out some of the logistics of the program and expects to have all the students placed in jobs by September.
However, Olivia Mitchell, director of the Mayor's Office of Youth Development, said her department will still need time to publicize and recruit students. "The first two weeks of school are wild. I don't see the program starting before mid-October or November."
Hopkins said delaying the job program will give planners more time to perfect the project.
"Because of the uniqueness of the program, it is going to take some time," she said. "We are working together to expose young people to careers. The program is moving more slowly than anyone expected or wanted. But the jobs are definite. We want to be prepared for success."