Summer Youth Employment Programs Provide Work Experience

group of teens looking at a tablet

John Henley/Getty Images

Summer Youth Employment Programs (SYEPs) provide work experience for kids, typically between June and August. By matching them up with entry-level 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 and how to apply and find a program in your area, read on.

About Summer Youth Employment Programs

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

While each program differs based on specifications, the age range is typically between 14 and 24. There also may be eligibility requirements based on income, household size, single parenthood status, and other personal circumstances. Many states and cities have employment programs in place. Below are some examples:

  • The New York City Department of Youth & Community Development offers a six-week Summer Youth Employment Program for local youth between the ages of 14 and 24. The program includes about 70,000 participants at 12,064 work sites. It matches teens with entry-level jobs at a variety of establishments, including government agencies, summer camps, local businesses, museums, retail shops, hospitals, and sports enterprises. Its mission is familiarizing youth with the working world and fostering academic improvement and social growth.
  • Santa Clara County in California operates a similar Youth at Work Program program which is a free online service that matches youth between the ages of 16 and 24 in Santa Clara County with hiring employers at state agencies, public organizations, and private establishments. The service also provides free information about career choices, education and ways to further expand on the job opportunities accessed through the program.
  • Broward County WorkForce One Program in Florida is a paid eight-week job program for youth between the ages of 16 and 18, based on eligibility including family income and household size. Available jobs have included child care work, clerical positions, summer camp jobs, local park aides, custodial work and library assistant jobs. The program attempts to match youth with job preference and also considers their location.
  • Hire LA Youth Summer Youth Employment Program provides 20,000 City of Los Angeles residents between the ages of 14 and 24 with a six-week summer job at one of 150 private employers. In addition, the association teaches eligible youth how to write a resume, interview and manage income. To qualify, the candidate’s family must be low income, receive public assistance, or they must be a foster or homeless youth.
  • Philadelphia’s Urban Affairs Coalition: Summer WorkReady operates 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. Other than meeting the age requirements, students only need to prove their eligibility to work in the U.S.
  • 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 eight weeks over the summer. The goal of MYEP is to motivate participating youth to develop career goals, achieve academically, and hone their social skills. Getting into this program is more difficult than others: the student must be a Charlotte resident, have work or extra-curricular experience, compose a 500-word essay, provide two professional letters of recommendation, complete an interview, and pass a drug screening test.

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

  • Metro Arts Summer Youth Employment Program is an Illinois-based program that places teens ages 15-19 in paid summer art apprenticeships, such as mural painting, sculpture work, dance, and literary arts.
  • Chicanos Por La Causa Summer Youth Employment Program is an Arizona-based organization that places Hispanic youth ages 14-18 in entry-level positions in hospitals, senior centers, libraries, local parks, and daycare centers.
  • CAMBA Summer Youth Employment Program is a Brooklyn-based program that places 1,000 underprivileged youth ages 14 - 24 who live in the five boroughs in subsidized minimum-wage jobs in government agencies, private non-profits and for-profits in a range of positions.

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 strict application deadlines that must be met to secure a spot. Apply early as the program may also be first come, first serve.
  • An interview may be required with both the participant and a family member.
  • 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, most cities and states do have active programs running each summer. Here are a few tips to find 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 Organization 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 likely 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.