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Computer maker gives boost to summer jobs initiative

A fast-growing computer manufacturer is looking to hire some sharp young people this summer, and it's turning to City Hall for help.

Great Lakes Electronic Distributing expects to hire up to 20 part-timers to assist with sales, service, support and even computer-building tasks.

That's music to Mayor Byron W. Brown's ears. The city recently sent letters to 3,600 local businesses and not-for-profit groups asking them to join forces with Buffalo's Summer Youth Employment and Training Program. The goal: To place 2,500 young people ages 14 to 24 in jobs that will include working in city facilities, community agencies and the private sector.

Last year, the program provided employment for 1,774 young people. While it was an increase of nearly 600 from two years earlier, it still fell below city targets. This year, Brown said, the program aims to add more than 700 young people to the roster.

Up to 40 percent of the participants are expected to be placed in the private sector. They must be at least 18 to work at private companies. Time Warner Cable, Acquest Development and Erie County Medical Center are involved.

Meanwhile, the city is in the process of giving young people job-readiness and life-skills training.

"This is not your old Mayor's Summer Youth Program," Brown said, referring to an effort that involved mostly hiring youngsters to work in parks and city offices.

Some businesses have agreed to "sponsor" young people for summer jobs by donating money to the not-for-profit Mayor's Fund to Advance Buffalo. Sponsored youngsters will be placed in jobs with the city, not-for-profit agencies and faith-based groups.

Darren Harper was 19 when he participated in last year's program. His summer spent working in the city's Office of Community Services and Recreational Programming taught him organizational skills and how to use computer databases.

"It was a great learning experience," he said.

Last year, the city committed about $200,000 to the program.

Community Services Commissioner Tanya Perrin-Johnson hopes a new city budget that will be approved this summer will increase funding. She added that private foundations also have been supportive.

Young people can pick up applications at the Buffalo Employment and Training Center, 77 Goodell St., or in Room 2301 of City Hall. The application deadline is May 30. For more information, call 851-4165.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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