Government Sees Workforce Development Opportunity in Teen Summer Employment

As schools around the country wrap up the academic year, families are faced with the dilemma of what their children will do during the summer break. For teens, summertime has included employment in the past. However, that’s changing.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teen summer employment has been on the decline. In July of 1989, they report that 77.5% of the 16-24 year-old labor force was employed. Last July, the share had dropped to 60%. Why are teens not working in the summer months? Drew Desilver at Pew Research Center offers a couple of possibilities—students have fewer suitable options available to them or they may be using their time to complete educational requirements or volunteering.

The Department of Labor, the White House, and state and local communities across the country are recognizing the potential of summer jobs to not just give young people a little extra money, but to also develop skills that will make them more competitive when they enter the workforce fulltime down the road. Earlier this month, the White House announced $21 million in grants will be awarded to communities “to launch and expand innovative approaches that provide young people with summer and year-round jobs and connect them to long-term career pathways” and the implementation of Summer Impact Hubs around the country to offer support programs for teens “to enhance jobs, learning, meals, and violence reduction” with a focus on inter-agency coordination.

Local communities are joined in their efforts by state agencies; the Department of Labor provides funding through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Youth Program to bolster opportunities for disadvantaged young adults, both in-school and out-of-school. Funding for state activities overall has increased from 2015 to 2016 by 5%, but not all states are seeing an increase in funding. Based on the formula, which takes state share of low income youth and overall unemployment into account, 19 states have received less funding for 2016 than 2015, and 14 states have allotments that have jumped by more than 10%. The majority of the latter are in the southeast.

The Boston Private Industry Council, for example, is one of the 16 local workforce development boards serving Massachusetts. In the summer, they work with employers to provide summer work opportunities for youth. According to the 2015 PIC Annual Report, over 3,300 students had summer jobs through PIC last year. Also in Massachusetts, the Brockton Area Workforce Investment Board supports young adults looking for summer employment through a Youth One Stop Career Center and its YouthWorks program, which uses funds from the state to provide job opportunities in the public and non-profit sector for low-income youth in the summer.

Local area workforce investment boards aren’t the only government organizations targeting youth employment; state governments are also implementing initiatives to target particularly vulnerable youth populations, such as this new program in Kentucky that places youth ages 17 to 23 that have “aged out” of the foster care system in summer jobs across the state’s Department for Community Based Services offices.

The map below highlights how much the Department of Labor has allotted each state through the WIOA Youth Program per 16-19 year old (based on civilian population averages for 2015 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics). While the average allotment per teen is around $51, the District of Columbia tops out at $128 per teen and Utah receives the least amount per teen at $21. Each state has a state workforce development board, which distributes the funds to local boards to provide programming.

To learn more about other funding opportunities, the National Summer Learning Association has released a federal funding resource guide for policymakers, in conjunction with the President’s Summer Opportunity Project.