Best Practices - Vol. IV

Mayor Marion S. Barry

Operation GREAT

In May of 1996, Mayor Marion Barry announced that the District of Columbia would continue to broaden its commitment to youth through the creation of Operation GREAT -- Graduates Ready to Excel in America Today -- an innovative employment project that targets graduating high school seniors interested in pursuing gainful employment. In launching this initiative, Mayor Barry reinforced the policy which has governed the operation of his summer youth employment program since 1980, that is, the District of Columbia will find the resources to provide enriching employment opportunities to all youth interested in working.

To ensure the success of this program, throughout the planning and implementation phases the City has collaborated with federal and local government agencies, the public school system, private sector businesses, and community based organizations. In promoting Operation GREAT, the Mayor began by hosting a breakfast meeting that was attended by 46 area employers. During this session, many valuable ideas were shared that contributed to the initial success of the program. This was followed by an all-day radio-thon to solicit additional employer involvement. The outpouring of community support for Operation GREAT was reinforced by the Superintendent of Schools, City Council Members, local area employers and students, all of whom participated in the event which resulted in a significant number of new job pledges. The culminating event, the Operation GREAT job fair, was also a success, with over 300 young people present and 68 employers participating. This event included workshops on job readiness, resume preparation and interviewing techniques. Military recruiters participated along with representatives from a number of area education and training institutions.

Operation GREAT, which is administered by the Department of Employment Services' Office of Youth Programs, includes a staff of counselors/case managers who provide individualized assistance to all program participants. Services include skills assessment, career counseling, job preparation workshops (work readiness, skill building, communication skills, resume preparation, interviewing), job development, job referral and follow-up. Case managers also provide assistance to participants in locating the supportive service resources needed to facilitate their transition from school to work. The Department's Employer Marketing Division, responsible for working directly with area employers in finding suitable candidates for available job vacancies, has worked in concert with the Office of Youth Programs in the successful placement of program participants.

Contact: D.C. Department of Employment Services, (202) 724-7100

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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