Skilling Up Teens Through Summer Jobs

February 25, 2016


The decrease of summer jobs can not only hurt a teen's pockets, but also can hurt their development as a whole.

When I was growing up, summer meant sleeping in, riding bikes with my friends, getting sunburn at the local public pool, and playing some intense laser tag games at night. This lifestyle was fun for about two weeks. Inevitably, I would say to my parents, “I’m bored.” To which my father’s response was always, “Get a job.” So I did.

I had a number of summer jobs including bagging groceries at the local Foodtown, pumping gas at Sunoco (I’m from New Jersey), and working in a furniture store warehouse. Besides getting me out of my parents’ hair for the summer, these jobs provided valuable benefits. They taught me responsibility, communication skills, and teamwork—all while putting a few bucks in my pocket. Unfortunately, too many young people across the country don’t have the summer opportunities I had and aren’t learning any of these early workplace skills—and the business community is taking notice.

Today, JPMorgan Chase released a report detailing how a lack of summer jobs is impacting youth employment and creating roadblocks to economic mobility for young people in the United States. The report Expanding Economic Opportunity for Youth through Summer Jobs finds that the summer employment rate for teens across the country has fallen to 34% and has dropped 20 points since 1995.

To remedy this national dilemma, JPMorgan Chase committed $6 million over the last two years to enhance skills-based and career-specific job opportunities for young people in 15 U.S. cities. So far, the commitment has helped create more than 3,200 summer jobs and work opportunities for young people. Despite the creation of more summer roles, only about 38% of teens and young adults looking for summer jobs were able to find positions in these cities.

The summer employment rate for teens across the country has fallen to 34% and has dropped 20 points since 1995.

According to the report, there is a need for increased engagement from the private sector to provide meaningful work experiences for young people. Encouragingly, the participation of the business community is trending upward. Detroit has the highest number of private sector worksites offering summer youth employment of the 15 cities, adding more than 100 partnerships in 2015.

In order to continue making progress, the report recommends:

  • Expanding Private Sector Engagement: Cities and Summer Youth Employment Programs (SYEPs) must continue to expand partnerships with the private sector by strengthening operating and communications systems.
  • Building Capacity for Skills Development: Cities and SYEPs are making progress in linking summer jobs to technical skills building, training and education, and year-round employment.
  • Expanding Services for Special Youth Populations: Cities continue to prioritize serving special youth populations, including at-risk youth. While some progress has been made, especially increasing services for opportunity youth, most SYEPs do not actively recruit or provide targeted services for youth involved in the court or foster care system or youth with special needs. Programs are making headway expanding services to young men of color (30% of SYEP participants).
  • Connecting SYEPs to Local Workforce Systems: Cities are aligning summer jobs programs with local workforce systems through new partnerships and organizational structures.
  • Creating Financial Capability Programs: The incorporation of new interactive technologies, along with the knowledge of sound financial practices, will help to create economic security for these young employees.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is also working on an employer-driven youth employment initiative with five state and local chambers of commerce and is focused on closing the skills gap by developing customized ways for the private sector to develop young talent as part of its overall business strategy. Translation: providing jobs that will teach the young person valuable skills AND help the business bottom line.

So, it’s not too early to start thinking about summer. And it’s not too early to start thinking about how your business can make this summer meaningful for a young person.


Mark D'Alessio is senior manager of communications at the USCCF Center for Education and Workforce.