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Summer Skills Loss: Early Work Experiences Matter

August 9, 2018

Linda M. Rodríguez

For young people in summer youth employment programs, the past few weeks have provided a chance to explore careers, build skills, grow their networks, and discover new talents. But for too many teens across the country, the summers are a missed opportunity. Despite the strong economy, low-income youth still face significant challenges findings jobs. Compounding this issue, summer youth employment programs (SYEPs)—one of the only options for low-income teens—cannot meet the demand for jobs because of limited capacity and resources.

Early work experiences contribute to long-term employment prospects and economic mobility. Not having access to summer jobs can impact opportunities for future success. I know the importance of these experiences firsthand: My first job was through New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program. That program was my only opportunity to work early on in my teens.

In 2017, JPMorgan Chase made a $17 million five year commitment to expand access to skills development and work experiences through summer jobs. Through this investment, the firm is supporting SYEPs in 22 U.S. cities this summer, contributing to efforts to provide opportunities for over 40,000 young people. In collaboration with the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), JPMorgan Chase surveyed its 2017 SYEP grantees, representing 19 cities, to explore challenges and opportunities for the field.

The findings from the survey, released this week, point to key challenges youth development and workforce leaders face related to consistent funding, infrastructure, data and evaluation, and increasing partnerships with employers that can provide quality work experiences.


Key takeaways:

  • 100% of SYEPs reported that demand for summer jobs continues to exceed available positions.
  • On average, SYEPs were able to place about 38 percent of applicants in summer jobs.
  • In Newark and New York City, for example, more than 50 percent of participants reported that they would have been unable to find work without summer youth employment programs.

Despite these challenges, cities continue to expand SYEPs; innovate program models to provide quality skills training, meaningful work experiences and opportunities for year-round learning and support; and deepen connections to education and workforce systems.

For example, this summer JP Morgan Chase is collaborating with ExpandED Schools on their innovative model, ExpandED Options. ExpandED Options provides high school students with credit-worthy job training where students are learning new skills during the school year in preparation for summer jobs teaching these skills as teen instructors. Students in ExpandED Options learn workforce skills such as, collaboration, leadership, and problem-solving that will help them succeed in any job of the future.

Other promising findings from the report include:

  • More SYEPs are providing job-readiness skills to help prepare young people for future work.
  • 81 percent expose youth to careers in growing sectors such as information technology, health care, financial services, and hospitality and tourism
  • 65 percent of programs partner with industry organizations to provide sector-specific work experiences
  • 43 percent provide opportunities for youth to earn credentials, frequently in health and technology
  • 76 percent offer supplemental training during the summer, often including computer skills, college access preparation, and financial literacy.
  • 62 percent provide career coaches or mentors.

While the summer is quickly coming to an end, the conversation about how to expand and strengthen summer work experiences for young people will continue in the months to come. I am excited to share that JPMorgan Chase will collaborate with CLASP over the next year to release briefs that highlight promising approaches to advancing youth employment, focusing on summer jobs. Given the importance of skills development and work-based learning, enhancing and expanding SYEPs is a priority for increasing economic mobility for young people.

Linda worked at ExpandED soon after the organization was created and credits the experience with deepening her understanding of youth development and commitment to expanding opportunities for young people. She was honored to contribute to a blog that she has followed throughout her career—from her role serving as Assistant Commissioner of Capacity Building at NYC DYCD to her current position leading youth initiatives for Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase.