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Summer Youth Employment Program sees highest number of participants this year

Lolo urges directors to look into hiring college students for part time work in ASG

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Some of the high school graduates who were employed part-time under the ASG Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) have been hired by the private sector, awaiting money to be budgeted for employment in the government sector, or going off to the US Armed Services after taking the military oath, according to survey data compiled by the Department of Human Resources, which oversees the program.

Human Resources director Eseneiaso Liu presented not only the outcome of the survey — after the program’s closing early this month — but data over the last six years on the number of participants, during last week’s cabinet meeting where Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga encouraged directors to recruit students attending ASCC to work part time at government entities, while taking classes at the college.

Besides a prepared hand-out report, Liu explained the specific data showing how the  number of SYEP participants has increased from its beginnings in 2005 up to this year, during which participants worked for six weeks from June 25 to Aug. 3rd.

The SYEP initiative provides individuals between the ages of 14 and 24 - (in school youth between 14-21 and out of school persons between 16 -24 but must meet one of the six criteria) - to work part time, providing short term employment and training.

When the program began in 2005 there were 200 participants but the numbers increased to 400 in 2009 thanks to funding from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; but the number of participants dropped between 2010 (with 150) through 2012 (with 120).

In 2013, the first year of the Lolo Administration, “we labeled this year, the ‘year of blessings’, because of the increase in the number of student participants — a total of 560,”  said Liu, who explained that it was the governor’s directive at the time to identify additional funds so more students can be employed. Additional monies came from the Commerce Department’s Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) and other revenue sources.

In 2014, the number of participants increased to 602, followed by 700 the next year; but then it dropped to 597 in 2016 because there were no federal funds available, said Liu.

But the governor reiterated the importance of the program and for it to be continued. Therefore in 2017, there were several funding sources including the CSBG, the Governor’s Office, the American Samoa Power Authority and the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), administered locally by DHR.

This year 2018, the total number of SYEP participants climbed to 802,  the highest number of participants so far, as the Governor’s Office assisted with additional funding, and the   governor continued to push to make available more job opportunities for students during the summer of this year, said Liu.

The 802 participants — who interned in both the public and private sectors —  included 22 American Samoa students attending colleges in the U.S.  (not 8 students as initially reported by Samoa News in June.)

According to Liu, these off-island students were on summer break and have excellent backgrounds, in areas such as IT, accounting, and engineering. She said recommendations have been made to agencies where these students interned, to look at their future budgets when the time comes for these students to graduate from college, so that upon returning with their degrees, there is room to employ them in ASG to help the government and the community.

Liu also revealed results of the SYEP survey for participants. The result shows that 16 of them are heading to the military; 506 are returning to classes at the high school level and the American Samoa Community College; 28 found employment in the private sector; 22 are returning to off island colleges; 10 are awaiting approval from Budget for employment in government; 2 are establishing their own businesses; 158 are still looking for employment; and 60 are “undecided” of their career paths and WIOA is assisting them with career path assessments.

Lolo asked cabinet members, “if you can find any way” to find employment in ASG for students who have already graduated from high school.

“They [graduates] can take four hours of work and four hours at ASCC for classes,” Lolo said, adding that, “those are the kinds of things we expect directors to look into and to find every opportunity that we can give our kids.”

“I  think it's a worthwhile investment if we continue to do that, and our future will be guaranteed that it will be good,” the governor added and explained that of the 10 SYEP participants who worked at the Governor’s Office, two of them just graduated high school.

Lolo said he has asked his Chief of Staff to put the two graduates on four or five hour work-days at the Governor’s Office and allow them to take classes at ASCC.  This “will not only give them work experience but also help [the student] get some form of [higher] education,” the governor said.

Liu read a written message from the participants who expressed appreciation to the governor for “your endless support” in “maintaining this program”, saying it’s a “blessing to all of the participants, not only to help their families financially, but to gain work experience to prepare them for the world of work” through the SYEP.