A few Boston area companies are leading the way to ensure that quality summer jobs are available to all our youth.
Summer jobs are a rite of passage, a coming-of-age milestone for many teenagers. Sweating while scooping ice cream or mowing lawns taught many of us to show up on time and work hard, while providing some pocket money for gas or college.
But today, the stakes are higher for youth to spend their summer in ways that will prepare them for college or career paths. The increased focus on building the best college application may be resulting in fewer teenagers taking traditional summer jobs. In fact, Bloomberg reports nearly 60% of young people ages 16-19 today are not working during the summer months, compared to 30% in the 1970s. Reporter Ben Steverman offers a few reasons: more adults are working longer and past retirement age, increased competition for low-wage jobs, and parents are encouraging teens to volunteer or pursue activities that improve their chance of getting into college.
THE JOB GAP IS WIDER FOR LOW INCOME YOUTH
The number one reason, according to Steverman, is that more teens are opting to take summer classes or unpaid internships instead of taking the typical summer jobs such as scooping ice cream or bussing tables. Four times as many teens were enrolled in summer school or enrichment classes last July compared to the number enrolled 30 years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But for low-income youth, who may not be able to afford enrichment classes or courses for college credit, summer job opportunities become even more critical. Research shows that summer jobs have positive benefits for today’s young people. A new report issued by Northeastern University in partnership with the Boston Federal Reserve Bank shows young people who participated in the City of Boston Summer Jobs Program demonstrated “improved social skills and attitudes toward their communities, enhanced job-readiness skills, and higher academic aspirations.” It also reports that violent crime among participants decreased by 35%, and property crimes decreased by 57%.
Summer employment opportunities can help to provide a safe, productive activity that also teaches life lessons in managing money, learning to avoid conflict, and working well with others.
BUSINESSES CAN HELP CLOSE THE GAP
In Boston, several leading corporations have stepped in to help provide meaningful summer job opportunities for area youth. Last month, United Way Board member Michael Doughty, interim President and CEO at John Hancock, joined Boston Mayor Martin Walsh to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of John Hancock’s MLK Scholars Program. Since 2008, John Hancock has funded more than 6,000 summer jobs, providing nearly $10 million in wages for youth summer jobs.
“As we celebrate 10 years, we proudly reflect on all that has been accomplished and more fully appreciate the value created when young people gain meaningful work experience,” said Doughty at the celebration of the partnership with Mayor Walsh. “Better preparing our youth in a fast-changing economy is essential to building individual and community prosperity.”
This summer, Mayor Walsh is offering 3,300 positions through Success Link, the summer jobs program managed by the Boston Center for Youth and Families. This represents an 18% increase since 2013. Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), MLK Scholars, and the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) offer an additional 2,000 subsidized positions at community-based organizations. The PIC adds another 3,000 private sector jobs and internships to the mix. Top employers include Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, State Street Corporation, Bank of America and Aramark (Fenway Park.) Since the Mayor took office in 2014, more than 30,600 summer jobs have been generated for Boston teens.
The Boston Summer Jobs Program is focused on increasing access to meaningful summer job opportunities for local youth, providing them with interview tips, career specialists and feedback on their performance.
“Teenage employment is the one slice of the labor market that has not recovered substantially since the recession,” said Neil Sullivan, Executive Director of Boston PIC. “Boston is a leader when it comes to both subsidized youth employment and private sector internships, but we need to do even better this summer and in the years to come.”
JP Morgan Chase recently announced a $17 million multi-city investment over the next five years in summer employment opportunities for youth. According to the Boston Globe, Boston PIC will receive a $100,000 grant from JP Morgan Chase to boost a program that places 16-year olds in work-based training programs that create pathways toward professional internships.
“It’s a moral and economic crisis that too many young people graduate high school without clear pathways to good jobs,” said Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO, JPMorgan Chase in the company’s announcement on their website. “We must make it a national priority to provide youth with the skills they need to succeed, and this starts by providing them with meaningful summer work. Our Summer Youth Employment Program does just that by exposing more students to jobs that teach them the skills they need to find careers in growing industries later on.”
SUMMER JOBS HELP GET KIDS COLLEGE READY
The end goal for summer jobs today are to help young people be college- and career-ready when they graduate high school. One United Way initiative, a community partnership known as Summer Experiences in Greater Lowell, is funding organizations such as United for Teen Equality, Lowell Community Health Center, Community Teamwork Inc., and The Paul Center to provide teens with summer employment that trains teens and prepares them for career pathways.
“We know that exposing young people to different skills and career opportunities early on shows them what is possible when they graduate high school,” says Karley Ausiello, Senior Vice President for Community Impact. “For many, that job can open doors that they don’t even know about, putting them on a path toward educational success and a career that will ensure financial opportunity.”