(CBS) — Justin Marbury and Tremaine Wright have heard the questions directed at young black men without jobs.
Like: Why aren’t you working?
“I’m trying to get a job. Simple as that,” Marbury tells CBS 2’s Jim Williams.
The two young men have been trying for months at several businesses. Marbury figures he has filled out up to 60 applications for employment.
Same story for Wright.
“I haven’t even been on an interview yet,” he says.
A University of Illinois-Chicago study indicates 47 percent of young black men are unemployed, if they’re not in school, far exceeding the national average. The largest concentrations of the unemployed live in neighborhoods with high poverty and crime.
“I know these guys are doing exactly what they said they’re doing,” says Thenesia Williams of the SoundMind Community Development Corporation.
She trained Justin and Tremaine and dozens of other young people in Austin on how to fill out job applications, conduct job interviews and even how to dress before showing up at a work place.
“It’s hard to keep them encouraged and empower them and do something different when they’re knocking on doors and doors are not being opened for them,” she says.
“I’m very well-rounded very smart. Have good people skills. I’d be a good asset to any company that employs me,” Marbury says.
He says he’d like to apply for more jobs downtown but doesn’t have the bus fare to get there.
The Alternative Schools Network commissioned the UIC study. Its executive director calls the high employment a “policy failure.” Community groups are calling on companies to hire more minority young people.