FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – New U.S. Department of Labor statistics show the unemployment rate for people ages 16-19 is rising for the first month of the summer. That’s why hundreds of high school students and recent graduates lined up at the Will Rogers Center in the early afternoon heat. They’ve learned jobs are hard to come by.

“I’m going to places and asking for applications and they say we’re not hiring now but you can fill out an application and then they never get back to you,” said Brandi Johnson, a high school senior.

The lines are for a job fair sponsored by the Fort Worth Independent School District. The students are dressed in nice slacks, dresses and shirts and ties hoping for a chance to avoid being a part of the unemployment statistics

“They all seem to know someone, a family or neighbor who has experienced being unemployed,” said Lila Boydston who helped coordinate the job fair. “So it is real to them and I think they have a greater understanding then we give them credit for.”

The Fort Worth ISD puts together this job fair for their students every year. But this year the fair has more importance. In just two hours the fair surpassed 600 students — more than attended all of last year. All the businesses here are required to have job openings ready to fill. Their 80 tables, representing 200 businesses, fill a large meeting hall. There are signs for restaurants, hotel chains, the tech industry and more.

“I’m Johnny Brown,” the recent high school grad said as he shook hands with representatives of the UNT Health Science Center. “Nice to meet you.” Brown wants to be a forensic scientist or medical examiner. Finding a job now is critical. “Its very important,” Brown said. “I come from a single parent home. Income is very limited for us. In order for me to go to college I’m going to have to — I mean I’ve got scholarships but I need the extra money.”

Brown targets the tables with representatives from the medical field and is quick to point out his experience and passion.
“I did an internship at Baylor Hospital and I volunteer at Cooks,” Brown told one recruiter. In just ten minutes, Brown has two strong leads in the medical profession.

Many of the employers offer long-term careers or even help in going to college. “Its incredible you have such a leg up,” Brown said. “I mean, 80-vendors here, just for us high school students? That’s incredible. That’s incredible.”

In this economy these young people have also learned opportunities like this job fair are invaluable.