Summer youth employment

Strategy overview

  • Short-term paid employment: Youth employment and internship programs connect young adults (mostly high school students) to paid jobs. These employment experiences generally occur during the summer, but can also occur at other intervals of the school year. Students are generally paid hourly, though rates may vary by employer.
  • Exposure to professional environments: A primary focus of summer youth employment is to provide participants with exposure to professional settings while beginning to developing work skills. Some programs combine formal work experience and summer learning, including time spent in the classroom and real-world opportunities to apply those lessons. Jobs typically span the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
  • Coaching and mentorship: Robust youth employment and internship programs generally include formal supervision and frequent opportunities for feedback. Centrally administered programs (such as ones run by a school district or chamber of commerce) may also provide an additional coach or mentor — often an alumnus of the same program and high school — who can help students troubleshoot any challenges and identify opportunities for improvement or growth.
  • School-year skill building: Effective summer youth employment and internship programs typically include professional skills workshops and programming during the school year. This can include help identifying and applying for specific summer opportunities, drafting resumes, and communicating in a business setting. Some workshops or lessons may be delivered by employers, who can also use the setting to meet students and answer questions.
Target Population
High school-aged children
Key Stakeholders
Mayor or County Executive's Office, District or School Leadership, Nonprofit Partners, Employer Partners, Program Evaluation Team

What evidence supports this strategy?

Strong

A systematic review and multiple randomized control trials indicate that summer youth employment has strong short-term effects on wages, employment, and academic achievement in some cases; however, further studies are needed to replicate the effects and demonstrate long-term impacts.

  • A 2022 systematic review of 13 randomized control trials found that summer youth employment programs can boost earnings and employment among youth, especially among those who may otherwise have difficulty finding employment. Summer youth employment programs can also reduce involvement in the criminal justice system for at least a year. The review found that there were mixed outcomes in improving educational outcomes.

  • A 2019 systematic review found that summer youth employment programs increase earnings during participation (these effects are not sustained), and may decrease arrests due to violent crime up to 17 months after participation.

How do summer youth employment programs impact economic mobility?

  • Stable employment: Programs providing summer jobs and internships to youth connect thousands of students each year to employment, soft skills training, career development workshops, and steady income. Research indicates that youth employment programs offering these experiences can lead to more stable employment in the future, reduce crime among participants, and improve academic outcomes.
  • Enrolling in college: Participation in youth employment programs increases the likelihood that students graduate from high school, better positioning them to enroll in post-secondary education. Obtaining a postsecondary degree positions individuals for high-quality employment and higher lifetime earnings.

Best practices in implementation

  • Design programs alongside employers: To shape participant recruitment efforts and to inform the employer selection process, engage deeply with a range of key stakeholders on both the supply and demand sides of the labor market, including the local workforce board, chamber of commerce, major employers, high school counselors, and more.
  • Maximize diversity of opportunity: Recruit employers from across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to increase the likelihood of a strong match between participants and available opportunities. During this process, ensure that employers are appropriately vetted, including evaluating their capacity to provide on-job supervision and mentorship, learning opportunities, and market-appropriate wages.
  • Invest in ongoing training: Provide extensive pre-job training and professional development programming, ideally delivered at schools. This can include soft-skills training (in areas like communication, collaboration, and interviewing), along with hard-skills training (writing a resume, completing online applications, and filing timesheets).
  • Collect and evaluate data to refine the program: Solicit feedback via surveys and interviews from both employers and participants. Doing so can help programs identify high-quality employers, refine pre-job trainings, and demonstrate the impact of the experience to prospective participants and employers.

Evidence-based examples

Employment program that engages approximately 10,000 youths per summer in a six-to-seven week program
High school graduation
Promising
Umbrella organization unifying summer skill-building programs across Chicago
High school graduation Stable high-quality employment
Promising
Largest youth employment program in the country, connecting NYC youth to paid work experience and career development each summer
High school graduation Stable high-quality employment
Promising
Provides job training in construction and other high-demand employment sectors
High school graduation Stable high-quality employment
Promising