New York youngsters to get a taste of brokerage jobs

Armand Nakkab, a junior at John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, expects to get rich. This summer, as his first step toward the wealth he dreams of, he and 33 other high school students will be working on Wall Street at Shearson/American Express. They're the first class in a unique program designed to prepare high school students to work in the financial district.

The program began late last year when Shearson gave $200,000 to New York City toward the establishment of a new Institute for the Study of Finance. Judy Sanders, vice-president for management development at Shearson, says the program was begun ''because very young people do not get the exposure to this side of the business and are not aware of the opportunities.''

In addition Shearson, like other brokerage houses, has experienced high turnover rates in its back office - or operations - areas. Ms. Sanders says that ''when people come in here, they really aren't aware of what they will be getting into and sometimes they say, 'I didn't know it was going to be like this ,' and then they leave.''

Still others, after developing skills as margin clerks or data processing operators, are hired away by other firms for more money. So Shearson decided to take another tack by trying to attract qualified high school students before they graduated. To the students, like Armand, it is like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Elmo Wadderburn, another student, comments, ''It's a once-in-a-thousand opportunity.''

As the first step, students at John Dewey High were approached for the program. Phyllis Frankfort, director of the institute, recalls that 200 to 300 students signed up. The program only planned to accept 30. After an intensive screening process, which included interviews with the principal and assistant principal and a written recommendation by a teacher, the group was pared down to 34.

At the same time, Shearson lent out executives to help write the curriculum for the teachers, who would be giving nine courses. Among courses in the first year are financial accounting and operations on Wall Street. In the second year, they include data processing, banking, insurance, and financial planning. So far , Ms. Frankfort reports, the students, who take their regular classes as well, have been extremely enthusiastic.

In fact, the program has been so well received that the city has decided to expand it. In February five more schools (one for each New York borough) began similar pilot programs. Four more will join by September.

Ms. Frankfort says that by this summer some 200 city youngsters will be working on Wall Street. Firms other than Shearson have expressed an interest. Peter Costiglio, a spokesman for Prudential-Bache Securities Inc., says: ''It sounds like a solid program, and we are looking at it with a great deal of interest. We think it is to everyone's benefit - the students', the city's, and the Street's.''

It has even attracted national attention. Ms. Frankfort says she has received phone calls from as far away as Texas from other schools interested in obtaining a copy of the curriculum. New York Mayor Edward I. Koch, who has picked out Wall Street as a likely place to raise new taxes, has also praised the plan, saying, ''This is good news in the form of an excellent idea. . . . Our children need to come equipped and informed to real job opportunities.''

Last week the institute's beginning class of 34 students made its first trip to Shearson to see how securities are traded and to get a peek at their summer jobs. Shearson executives, including Victor Samra, a senior vice-president in the capital-markets department, welcomed them, encouraging them to ''work hard and ask a lot of questions.'' Arthur Locilento, vice-president for recruiting, told them the firm was looking for ''the very best people,'' since it was competing against the banks and brokerage houses for talent. He added, ''The bottom line is, this is a very competitive business.''

That is what Armand Nakkab is looking for. ''This is a foot in the door for the future,'' he said, and should help him go on to get a college degree at Baruch College and eventually become a certified public accountant. Ms. Frankfort estimates that about 70 percent of the students will go on to college. But Elmo Wadderburn says his decision will depend on ''what kind of offer Shearson makes me.''

Oil prices will be under the most pressure this quarter. This is the view of George Keller, chairman of the board of Standard Oil Company of California. Mr. Keller, who was in New York recently, told a small group of reporters that prices ''will have to hang in there'' until demand picks up again in the third quarter. The pressure on prices will come from oil companies, which now feel there is room to gamble on still lower prices with slack demand this quarter.

Over the intermediate term, the Socal chairman does not expect prices to rise again until OPEC production gets up to 22 to 24 million barrels of oil a day. This year, he expects demand to pick up only 1 to 11/2 percent. But he says inventories have now been drawn down considerably.

Currently, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is producing about 12 million barrels of oil a day. Socal, which used to buy up to 66 percent of its crude oil from Saudi Arabia, now buys only 15 percent of it there.

Stock prices soared last week as investors gained confidence the market would hold its gains. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 46.63 points, closing the week at 1,171.34. Volume perked up on the rise.

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