Summer Youth Employment Programs

Opportunities for Teens

Teen study group
Getty Images/John Henley

Youth Employment Programs provide summer work experience for kids, matching up teens with entry-level jobs at local organizations where they benefit from a source of income, work experience and gain skills necessary for academic and professional success. Here's more information on Summer Youth Employment Programs, including eligibility, how to apply and finding a program in your area.

About Youth Employment Programs

Summer Youth Employment Programs are generally state-based or city-based programs that are often dependent on state or city funding, so for this reason, they may vary year-to-year.

While each program differs based on specifications, the age limit ranges from 14-24. There also may be eligibility requirements based on income, household size, single parenthood status and other family circumstances.

Many states and cities have employment programs in place:

  • The New York City Department of Youth & Community Development offers a Summer Youth Employment Program for local youth between the ages of 14 and 24. The program includes about 35,000 participants at 5,800 work sites, matching teens with entry level jobs at a variety of establishments, including government agencies, summer camps, local businesses, museums, retail shops, hospitals and sports enterprises, with the goal of familiarizing youth with the working world and fostering academic improvement and social growth.
    New York City Summer Youth Employment Program
  • Santa Clara County in California operates a similar "Youth at Work" program which is a free online service that matches youth 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.
    Santa Clara County Youth at Work Program
  • WorkForce One, a Summer Youth Employment Program in Broward County, Florida, is an 8-week job program for youth aged 16-18, based on eligibility (which takes into account family income, household size and other family circumstances). Previously 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 location.
    Broward County WorkForce One Program

    These are only a few sample organizations that provide work opportunities for local youth, and there are many government-run programs through cities and states around the country.

    There are also Summer Youth Employment Programs run through non-profit organizations:

    • Metro Arts Summer Youth Employment 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.
      Metro Arts Summer Youth Employment Program
    • Chicanos Por La Causa is an Arizona-based organization that places Hispanic youth ages 14-18 in entry-level positions in hospitals, senior centers, libraries, local parks and day care centers.
      Chicanos Por La Causa Summer Youth Employment Program

    Benefits of Summer Youth Employment Programs

    Summer Youth Employment Programs have a variety of benefits for both the individual participants and the communities they service, 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

      What to Keep in Mind

      Before you begin applying to a Summer Youth Employment Program, consider the following:

      • Many programs require applications that must be submitted on time in order to secure a spot as space can be limited, so don't delay.
      • An interview may be required with the both participant and his or her family.
      • Eligibility and age range varies based on each organization, so ensure that you qualify.
      • There may be certain 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 the establishment of Summer Youth Employment Programs varies in each location, most cities and states do have active programs running each summer. Here are a few tips to find a Summer Youth Employment Program 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 Summer Youth Employment Programs 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 that may be 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 Summer Youth Employment Programs.
      • 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.