How Private Sector Summer Jobs Programs Increase Benefits for Youth

As the end of July approaches, cities across the country are ramping up their Summer Youth Employment Programs (SYEP) to help connect young people in the labor market.

Summer job programs are usually one of the most prominent youth employment programs in a city or county. They typically last five to seven weeks and provide work opportunities for teenagers and young adults who would otherwise struggle to find employment. They offer a paycheck, work experience and other organized activities that serve multiple purposes: to increase participants’ incomes, to develop the skills and networks of young people to improve their prospects in the labor market and to provide constructive activities. to promote positive behavior. Most SYEP positions are subsidized and in the public and nonprofit sectors, although some cities also get unsubsidized and private sector placements.

Our New Research on the Boston Summer Jobs Program adds to the growing evidence base of benefits of the SYEP, particularly around crime and school results. This new research focuses specifically on youth in private sector internships and finds positive effects on attendance, course performance, test scores, high school graduation rates and enrollment. at the post-secondary level.

While not all young people benefit equally from SYEPs, they can provide transformative experiences that help level the playing field for marginalized groups. And since young people are enrolling in large numbers (programs are often oversubscribed), they offer a tremendous opportunity to reach many young people when they are receptive and in need of guidance in the labor market.

Success depends on strong outreach to area businesses and high school students

Because SYEPs recruit young people of varying ages, skills, and preparation, the programs do their best to make good matches between participants and workplaces. Younger teens and those with less work experience typically work in subsidized public and nonprofit organizations. Private sector placements are reserved for older teens, such as juniors or seniors in high school, and sometimes require interviews similar to internships or entry-level jobs. Private-sector employers often pay salaries themselves, allowing programs to expand the scale and scope of employment experiences without exceeding financial limitations.

from boston Private Industry Council (PIC), the city’s Workforce Development Council and where one of the authors of this article works, operates the private sector branch Boston’s summer jobs program, brokering approximately 1,300 internships. PIC works closely with Boston Public Schools (BPS) to recruit and prepare students for summer internships, and conducts an extensive outreach campaign with area employers to secure hiring commitments for the summer.

Work begins each fall with PIC career specialists conducting outreach activities in 31 BPS secondary schools, working with approximately 2,600 students to prepare them for a summer internship with a private sector company through a series of work readiness workshops and career exploration activities. At the same time, PIC’s Employer Engagement team secures hiring engagements from nearly 70 top employers, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to hospitals to tech startups. Major employers include Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, State Street Corporation, John Hancock Financial Services, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

To negotiate placements, PIC staff prepare students to interview employers that match their interests and skills, and employers make the final decision on whether or not to offer a position. Students who are not placed in a private sector internship can seek subsidized employment through the city’s state-funded PIC or SYEP, most likely at a community-based nonprofit. PIC staff will also walk students through the process of applying for jobs outside of their network of employers.

In addition to covering youth salaries, private sector internships expose students to a wider variety of industries – such as healthcare, finance, real estate, insurance and life sciences – compared to jobs sponsored by state-funded SYEPs and those that teenagers find on their own, which are typically in retail, accommodation and food services. Students typically work 30 to 35 hours per week for six weeks from early July through mid-August and are paid at least Massachusetts state minimum wage.

To ensure that companies provide rewarding work experiences, the PIC encourages employers to use the Massachusetts Workplace Learning Plan. The plan invite employers to develop a job description, sets out basic performance expectations (such as punctuality, communication and initiative), lists a variety of skills that are more specific to particular workplaces and careers, and provides a structure for supervisors to assess participants against these expectations and skills at the start and end of the summer.

PIC Summer Internships have multiple academic benefits for participants

Previous evaluations of summer jobs programs have focused on subsidized jobs in the public and nonprofit sectors. In our new researchwe sought to better understand the impacts of the PIC program and how it compares to The Boston State funded SYEP.

Our study shows that participation in a PIC-brokered private-sector internship is associated with improvements in attendance, course performance, and high school graduation rates that are of a magnitude similar to that of state-funded SYEPs. PIC participants attended two extra days of school, were less likely to fail a course after participating in the program, and were more likely to score “proficient” on high school exams at the scale of state as the comparison group. All of these factors contribute to PIC participants being 5.4 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school on time compared to their peers, which is similar to the impacts of publicly funded SYEPs. on young people, which have been documented using experimental studies based on lottery allocation. .

Unlike the supported employment program, however, participation in the PIC program is also associated with improvements related to post-secondary education. PIC participants were more likely to take the SAT than their peers, although there was no significant difference in test scores. PIC participants were also 6.1 percentage points more likely to enroll in any post-secondary institution compared to the control group, and they were more likely to enroll in four-year institutions than in institutions. two years. At this point, we do not know if these incremental impacts are associated with greater exposure to different careers and/or mentors through the PIC program, a source of future research.

Since young people are not assigned by lottery, we might wonder which young people actually benefit from this program. Although PIC participants are more likely to be older students in grades 11 or 12, they are no more advantaged than the general BPS population, and a greater proportion of them are non-white, low-income or male—characteristics less correlated with college attendance. In fact, we find that PIC participants who attend traditional BPS schools experience a greater increase in college enrollment than those who attend prestigious city exam schools. This suggests that program impacts could come from connecting less advantaged students with occupations and industries that require post-secondary education.

Why We Should Invest in High-Quality Summer Job Programs

In any summer employment program, unsubsidized positions in the private sector are a valuable complement to subsidized placements in public and not-for-profit entities. They provide a wider range of opportunities for the most employable young people and, as employers pay the salaries, they allow for program growth at a lower cost.

However, developing placements in the private sector and preparing young people for these placements is a complex undertaking compared to the process generally used by cities to place young people in subsidized positions, which is already a rather complicated logistical process. In Boston, PIC’s ability to mediate between SYEP and private sector employers is key to keeping employers coming back summer after summer. Other research identified both program design and organizational capacity, such as staff with the right skills and adequate information management systems, as critical to the success of any summer employment program.

SYEPs are popular with city leaders, teenagers and their families, and the evidence base of their effectiveness is growing. With additional federal funding available through the American Rescue Plan Act, local governments can invest in the organizational capacity needed to provide a strong foundation for these programs and attract new private sector partners, especially given the historically tight labor market, with employers struggling to fill entry-level positions. -level posts. For the private sector, partnering with SYEPs to provide young people with high-quality opportunities can be a win-win solution for employers looking to fill short-term jobs while building a more diverse workforce for the future.

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