Summer Youth Employment Programs (SYEPs)

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Summer Youth Employment Programs (SYEPs) provide work experience for young people, typically between June and August. By matching them up with entry-level summer jobs at local organizations, participants benefit from a source of income and work experience, and gain skills necessary for academic and professional success.

For more information on SYEPs—including eligibility, how to apply, and how to find a program in your area—read on.

What is a SYEP?

SYEPs are primarily city- or state-based programs dependent on government funding. For this reason, the structure and availability of these programs may vary year-to-year.

About Summer Youth Employment Programs

While each program differs based on specifications, the age range is typically between 14 and 24.

There may be eligibility requirements based on income, household size, single parenthood status, and other personal circumstances.

City and State Programs

Many states and cities have employment programs in place. Below are some examples:

New York City

The New York City Department of Youth & Community Development offers a six-week Summer Youth Employment Program for local young people between the ages of 14 and 24. The program aims to prepare youth for the work world, explore career interests, and build work-related skills while supplementing income. During the summer of 2019, the program served 74,453 participants at 13,157 work sites. The NYC program places youth in a variety of employment sectors, including financial services companies, healthcare organizations, cultural institutions, legal services organizations, media and entertainment entities, and government agencies. The program provides pre-employment workshops to enhance readiness for work assignments. Jobs are compensated at the New York State minimum wage of $15 per hour.

Seattle

The city of Seattle has developed a year-round employment program for youth ages 16-24, which features a paid summer internship program. There is an early application deadline of September 16. Participants must reside in the city and meet income criteria. Career exploration and readiness are the focal goals of the program. During the fall, winter, and spring, weekly participation is required in team activities, skills workshops, one-on-one coaching and support services, assessments, and by attending career discovery days. Summer internships are arranged and compensated at $16 per hour. 

Florida

The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) of Broward County Florida provides students between the ages of 16 and 18 with paid employment between June and August. Selected youth work in a variety of clerical and assistant or aide roles with government agencies, libraries, community organizations, for-profits, and non-profits. Participants are selected on a first-come, first-served basis with requirements including Broward County residency and financial need. The program includes three days of employability skills workshops.

Los Angeles

The LA Youth at Work Program has facilitated 6,052 summer job/internship placements over the past three years for City of Los Angeles residents between the ages of 16 and 24. Over 100 employers have participated in the program. Participants earn a work readiness certificate after engaging in a series of job skills workshops. 

Philadelphia

Philadelphia Youth Network manages the Summer WorkReady Program for city residents between the ages of 14 and 18. The six-week program partners with dozens of organizations, from law offices and doctor's offices to schools and colleges. Positions offered are primarily based on the individual’s interests, work experience, and location. Applicants with no work experience will generally be placed in basic summer jobs, while internship quality placements require some prior work experience. Other than meeting the age and residency requirements, students only need to prove their eligibility to work in the U.S.

Charlotte

The Mayor Youth Employment Program (MYEP) of Charlotte, North Carolina, gives eligible high school students between the ages of 16 and 18 the opportunity to intern for six weeks over the summer. The goal of MYEP is to motivate participating youth to develop career goals, achieve academically, and hone their social skills. Participants must be enrolled as a current student in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools or reside in the city of Charlotte, and complete a career readiness workshop and orientation program. Internships are compensated at the rate of $9 per hour.

These are just some of the organizations that facilitate employment opportunities for local youth. You’ll find similar government-run employment programs throughout the U.S.

Non-Profit Programs

There are also many SYEPs run by non-profit organizations. Here are two examples:

HANAC

The HANAC Summer Youth Employment Program exposes teens and young adults aged 14-24 to real-life work experiences and real-world labor expectations while building work readiness skills and a foundation for future employability. Participants are placed in 6-week paid summer internships and provided with job readiness and career exploration workshops. Youth are placed in hospitals, summer camps, law firms, small businesses, non-profit organizations, retail organizations, parks, and arts organizations. Participants must be New York City residents. HANAC served over 1000 youth during the last program year.

CAMBA

The CAMBA Summer Youth Employment Program is a Brooklyn-based program that places 1,000 underprivileged youth ages 14 - 24 in a wide range of subsidized minimum-wage jobs in government agencies, private non-profits, and for-profit companies. Candidates must be residents of one of the five boroughs of New York City.

Benefits of Summer Youth Employment Programs

SYEPs have a variety of benefits for both the individual participants and the communities they serve, including:

A greater understanding of financial management

  • Real-world work experience
  • Improved interpersonal communication skills
  • Career choice advice and educational guidance
  • Positive adult role models
  • Connections for future career opportunities
  • Resume building for future jobs or college applications
  • Interview practice

Before You Apply

Before you begin applying to an SYEP, consider the following factors:

  • Due to limited space, many programs enforce early application deadlines that must be met to secure a spot. Some deadlines may be as early as September, so start researching options the summer before you plan to work. Apply as soon as possible during the application period since the program may accept participants on a first-come, first-served basis. 
  • An interview will often be required.
  • Eligibility and age range are unique to each organization, so make sure you meet their qualifications before applying.
  • There may be specific prerequisites, such as a training period or orientation before the actual work period starts.

How to Find a Summer Youth Employment Program in Your Area

Though SYEPs differ in their established frameworks and guidelines, many cities and states do have active programs running each summer. Here are a few tips to finding an SYEP in your area:

Contact Your School's Guidance Department: Ask about city-based or state-based Summer Youth Employment Programs in your area.

Check the State Department of Labor Website: Your state's Department of Labor should list SYEPs, including relevant information about eligibility requirements and how to apply.

Search Your City's Website for Employment Opportunities: Check out your city's official website for information about any summer programs offered. Also, contact relevant city officials and inquire about any local Summer Youth Employment opportunities.

Review Community-Based Organizations for Opportunities: Sometimes, local non-profit organizations offer SYEPs.

Ask a Local Youth Council or Youth-Based Organization: If your area has a youth-advocacy organization, it's possible that they have a listing of summer opportunities for local youth.

Perform a Comprehensive Internet Search: Many Summer Youth Employment Programs have websites that may not be accessible through city or state websites, so searching for programs independently can also be useful.