REPORT: Expanding Economic Opportunity for Youth Through Summer Jobs, September 2016

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Sep, 2016

Every summer, millions of young people across the United States look forward to getting their first job—an important early work experience that can put them on the path to a meaningful career. Despite signs of an economic recovery, nearly 20 percent of young people who want to work cannot get jobs. Summer youth employment programs (SYEP) help to address this challenge by connecting youth to opportunities to build skills and gain work experience. However, most cities cannot keep up with the demand for positions, especially for summer jobs that are linked to career pathways.

To tackle these challenges, summer youth employment programs have implemented strategies to expand skills development opportunities and strengthen public and private sector partnerships. This report provides an overview of those efforts, which have laid the foundation for summer work experiences that prepare young people to thrive in a competitive global economy that requires a more skilled workforce.

Advancing Summer Youth Employment Priorities

Looking ahead, summer jobs programs can play a unique role in addressing the youth unemployment crisis by leveraging their expertise, partnerships, scale, and other resources to increase the number and quality of skills-based work opportunities. While SYEPs reported progress over the past year, they also emphasized the importance of building on the momentum to create high-quality, sustainable summer jobs programs by:

·         Maximizing opportunities in federal policy, such as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

·         Making a stronger case for business investment.

·         Adopting policies and practices that target services to populations that continue to face significant systemic barriers to education and employment opportunities.

·         Expanding access to opportunities to develop early work skills through year-round training, career readiness credentials, and school-based options. In particular, recent research has emphasized the importance of working with youth in their early teen years to begin developing these skills.

·         Strengthening connections between SYEPs and workforce systems, to better integrate services and maximize resources.

To advance efforts to build and sustain this progress, a national summer jobs agenda and network are needed to support investments in evaluation, research, resources and a playbook for cities that lays out best practices. In particular, cities would benefit from tools to help them form standards and benchmarks, access the latest research, share strategies and resources, and communicate the value of summer jobs programs. Young people have joined in calls for better web-based platforms, with a focus on making it easier to identify and apply for jobs across all sectors.

Working together, the public and private sectors have already contributed to strengthening summer jobs programs. But more progress is needed to equip young people with the skills and experiences that will help them access economic opportunity and succeed in the competitive global economy.

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Workforce Development
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