- Associated Press - Sunday, June 7, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Hundreds of Little Rock job hopefuls have city officials sorting through applications for a summer employment program that had nearly double the number of applicants than positions.

Many of the 1,200 applicants have dropped out of the competition, but there are still about 100 young adults too many for the 650 jobs that begin June 22, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1dp9uzu ) reported Sunday.

“It’s real that I probably will have 100 students I have to turn away. That just bothers me because I’m thinking, ‘What are they going to do if they don’t have a job?’” said Dana Dossett, director of the Community Programs Department.

The city will pay the workers - who are between 16 and 21 - minimum wage, and partnering businesses will employ them.

About 300 businesses, in both the private and public sector, are participating. Seventy-nine of the positions are at 36 city-owned sites, such as community centers.

Dossett said some of the young people have never held jobs before and the program makes the transition into the workforce easier.

“Sometimes students are afraid to go to the mall and apply for a job, but they feel comfortable coming to the city because the city is here to help them. You could get the same job if you went to the zoo, but if you go through the city, you know you have someone looking out for you,” Dossett said.

The Summer Youth Employment program accounts for more than $1 million of the city’s $5.5 million community programs yearly budget.

“So many apply because the unemployment rate for young people under 21 is really (high) in this city. There’s just not enough jobs for kids,” said community programs manager Barbara Osborne. “I like to refer to our young people as our infrastructure - not the streets and drains and stoplights. If we don’t do something to strengthen them, the city can’t stand.”

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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