With federal funds for summer jobs programs for young people virtually nonexistent, the local and private sectors will be taking up the slack in Columbus.

With federal funds for summer jobs programs for young people virtually nonexistent, the local and private sectors will be taking up the slack in Columbus.

Last week, Mayor Michael B. Coleman announced creation of a new S.O.A.R. (Summer Opportunities to Achieve and Reconnect) Hire! youth and young adult jobs program. It is a collaborative effort among the city, the Central Ohio Workforce Investment Corp., Ohio State University, Columbus State Community College and the Columbus construction company, Elford Inc.

S.O.A.R. Hire! will host a Youth Job Expo from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 18, at the COSI Science Center, 333 W. Broad St. It is open to all high school juniors and seniors as well as those up to age 24.

Those hoping to land jobs at the event must first register for and attend a job readiness workshop. Participants will receive a certificate that will serve as a "ticket" to the May 18 Job Expo.

"It's important to understand that hiring young people for summer employment isn't just good for the young people," Coleman said in making last week's announcement. "It's also good for the businesses who can have some of their unique needs met by employees working on a temporary basis. This approach will be a national model."

In years past, federal money help provide employment for more than 3,000 young people in Columbus. In 2009, Ohio received $56.2 million in Workforce Investment Act money to fund summer jobs programs, but that was replaced last year with $47 million in federal stimulus dollars.

This time around, both sources have virtually dried up, according to Suzanne Coleman-Tolbert, chief executive officer and president of the Central Ohio Workforce Investment Corp.

"It's not 100 percent on the private-sector side, but the majority of it will rest with the employers," Coleman-Tolbert said in an interview.

The announcement from the mayor's office on the S.O.A.R. Hire! Initiative said the COWIC started sending letters to more than 1,000 central Ohio businesses, asking them to commit to hiring these young workers.

Some Workforce Investment Act money aimed at providing year-round employment for young people is being combined with $440,000 in city funding for the summer job program, Coleman-Tolbert said.

"That's a smaller version of what we usually do every year with public dollars," she said.

The private sector is being called upon to pick up 1,200 of the 2,500 summer youth jobs that are the goal for this year, she added.

"It really is coming together and actually is a national model," Coleman-Tolbert said.

Summer jobs for young are about much more than just putting a little spending money in their pockets, she said.

"Research does show that it gives a young person an opportunity to get up every day and be on the job, shiny-faced, to do work for somebody," Coleman-Tolbert said. "It's one of those key elements that we say regardless of whatever else you do, you need to learn what it means to have a job and to be prepared.

"I really do credit my summer jobs with me wanting to go to school."

Coleman-Tolbert said her first job was across the street from OSU's campus, where she promptly enrolled upon graduating from Eastmoor Academy.

Coleman-Tolbert said that her organization and the other partners in S.O.A.R. Hire! are hoping to exceed the 2,500-job goal. "We just knew we had to do something for our young people," she said.

Those interesting in attending the Youth Job Expo may register for the required job readiness training by calling (614) 559-5037. Employers can commit to space at the May 18 event by calling (614) 583-1333.