Chicago — What works best to ready inner-city youth for jobs? Two programs are frequently cited as examples of experiments that link basic education and job skills, with better than average results:
* Opportunities Industrialization Centers (OIC) of America was launched 17 years ago in Philadelphia by community religious leaders. The OIC, which equips the low-income unemployed, in particular, with intensive skills training, has sprouted branches in more than 140 locations.
One of the most successful in placing trainees in permanent jobs is Minnesota's Twin Cities OIC which offers classes in everything from secretarial work to welding. Trainees must master basic education as well as job skills. The location is ideal -- an abandoned shopping center in the heart of a Minneapolis public housing project. But the crucial ingredient of success, according to special projects coordinator Mary Crowley, is the supportive "family" atmosphere that includes counseling, guidance, and placement help.
"It's not as difficult to teach skills, whether in basic education or technical, as some people seem to think," she says. "We find what many most need is a sense of positive worth -- some have been told all their lives that they've done everything wrong. . . . Some of the black men come in and act like superdude, just putting up a front so they won't get hurt."
* The experimental Youth Incentive Entitlement projects of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act offer low-income 16- to 19-year-olds in 17 different cities the guarantee of a job as long as they stay in school. Employers receive subsidies ranging all the way up to 100 percent. So far some 55,000 young people have taken part, and their school stick-to-itiveness is what most impresses officials of the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation in New York which administers the project and monitors the results.
The largest group of inner-city young people in any one program, including 4, 000 dropouts, is in Baltimore. The Mayor's Office of Manpower Resources, which administers the program there, set up a number of successful alternative schools so that students turned off by traditional schools would not be forced to return to them. An estimated 400 private employers have been involved in the Baltimore experiment. Program spokesman Steve Kaiser says most of them were initially skeptical, but that eventually they turned about half the jobs offered first on a p art-time basis into full-time jobs.